PADUCAH, Ky. – One of EM’s two plants that convert depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) to more stable compounds recently returned to conversion operations following a 20-month safety pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re very proud of the Paducah team. Safely restarting a nuclear facility after an extended shutdown takes hard work and a safe, conservative approach to make sure the job is done right the first time,” said Jim Barker, Paducah plant manager for Mid-America Conversion Services (MCS), EM’s DUF6 operations and maintenance contractor.
During the production hiatus, workers completed key upgrades and maintenance at both of EM’s DUF6 conversion facilities near Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio.
Commissioned in 2010 and 2011, the DUF6 facilities convert more than five decades’ worth of enrichment coproducts from the former Paducah, Portsmouth, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee gaseous-diffusion plants. The resulting materials are uranium oxide and aqueous hydrofluoric acid for safe reuse or disposal.
EM’s other DUF6 conversion facility at the Portsmouth Site is being assessed for readiness following upgrades and other improvements to prepare for its restart, scheduled for later this year.
“Safe and deliberate conduct of operations and maintenance made the Paducah restart successful, and this is also being emphasized with the upcoming restart at Portsmouth,” said Zak Lafontaine, DUF6 program manager with EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO). “The Paducah restart is a key step toward getting the DUF6 Conversion Project back to full production.”
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