Office of Environmental Management

DUF6 Conversion Project Reaches Highest Plant Reliability Mark at Portsmouth Site

May 7, 2019

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Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Project technicians monitor conversion facilities from a plant control room.
Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride Conversion Project technicians monitor conversion facilities from a plant control room.

LEXINGTON, Ky.EM’s project to convert the nation’s inventory of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) to a more stable oxide form for reuse or disposal recently achieved a critical milestone.

The DUF6 conversion facility at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site in Ohio achieved its highest operating “uptime” — 85 percent — since it began operations. Uptime represents how long the process operates over a given period of time. Past operating uptimes for the first-of-a-kind facilities at EM's Portsmouth and Paducah sites varied, but they had not previously exceeded an estimated 70 percent.

“Achieving sustained production is critical for the project to successfully complete its mission, so reaching this mark is a major accomplishment for the DUF6 Project,” said Reinhard Knerr, the project’s federal director for EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “We are looking forward to the Paducah DUF6 conversion facility achieving this milestone in the near future as well.”

New systems for generating hydrogen, key to the depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion process, are examples of recent improvements to plant reliability. They replaced less-reliable systems at both DUF6 conversion facilities.
New systems for generating hydrogen, key to the depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion process, are examples of recent improvements to plant reliability. They replaced less-reliable systems at both DUF6 conversion facilities.

Good reliability and high availability lead to improved productivity and safe sustainable operations, according to Fred Jackson, chief operating officer and chief engineer for Mid-America Conversion Services (MCS). MCS operates EM’s DUF6 conversion and storage facilities at Portsmouth and at Paducah, Kentucky.

"The hard work, dedication, and collaboration from the workforce, management, and support organizations, along with MCS's safety culture, are the solid foundation for significant successes like this,” Jackson said. He further attributed the recent success to thoughtful use of plant outages and strategic use of equipment downtime.

The uptime achievement follows the project’s attainment of its fiscal year production goal —converting 9,000 metric tons of material – six months ahead of schedule. That milestone followed a successful restart of all seven conversion lines to simultaneous operation following several pauses for safety and maintenance purposes. Numerous facility and process improvements were implemented at both conversion plants during that period.

Commissioned in 2011, EM’s conversion facilities are addressing more than 840,000 metric tons of DUF6 stored in 67,000 cylinders at both plant sites.

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