Workers at the Paducah Site load depleted uranium oxide cylinders onto a specialized railcar for shipment to the Waste Control Specialists Federal Waste Facility.
Workers at the Paducah Site load depleted uranium oxide cylinders onto a specialized railcar for shipment to the Waste Control Specialists Federal Waste Facility.

ANDREWS, Texas – Marking a milestone for EM’s first-of-a-kind Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride (DUF6) Conversion facilities, the first shipment of depleted uranium oxide (DUO) product recently left the Paducah Site in Kentucky and safely reached its final destination.

“Completing the first shipment of depleted uranium oxide opens an important chapter in the story of the DUF6 Conversion Project,” said Robert Edwards, manager of EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “It is significant because it safely and efficiently addresses one of the Department’s legacy priorities.”

The material arrived in six storage cylinders in a specifically modified 55-foot gondola rail car at the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) Federal Waste Facility in Andrews. A low-level crystalline powder, DUO is one of two end-products of the DUF6 conversion process — the other being hydrogen fluoride that is dispositioned elsewhere.

A Waste Control Specialists Federal Waste Facility crew in Texas offloads one of the first depleted uranium oxide cylinders to reach final disposition.
A Waste Control Specialists Federal Waste Facility crew in Texas offloads one of the first depleted uranium oxide cylinders to reach final disposition.

The Energy Department’s DUF6 inventory resulted from 50 years of uranium enrichment at U.S. gaseous diffusion plants. More than 700,000 metric tons of the material is safely maintained in storage at Paducah and its sister site near Portsmouth, Ohio. Over the next few decades, some of the remaining inventory will be disposed in licensed offsite facilities and some will be reused.

Zack Smith, president and project manager of EM’s DUF6 operations and maintenance contractor, Mid-America Conversion Services, credited his company’s partnership with the United Steelworkers, DOE, and the WCS facility for the milestone. He noted that numerous procedures and plans were developed while adhering to pandemic protocols.

"The inaugural oxide shipment demonstrates the full mission capability for the DUF6 Project, and a job well done by a very capable team," Smith said.