Uranium Management and Policy

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Aerial view of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is located three miles south of the Ohio River and is 12 miles west of Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah remains the only operating gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant in the United States.

The Office of Uranium Management and Policy (NE-54), as part of the Office of Fuel Cycle Technologies (NE-5), supports the Department of Energy (DOE) by assuring domestic supplies of fuel for nuclear power plants. Principal activities include supporting the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy to assess the impact of sales or transfers of the DOE’s excess uranium inventories on the domestic uranium industry, providing technical and policy oversight of uranium enrichment activities at DOE’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site, administration and oversight of the American Centrifuge Cascade Demonstration Test Program, and reporting annually to Congress on the impact of the U.S.-Russia Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement on the U.S. nuclear fuel industry.

NE-54’s cooperates with other DOE and federal offices, including Environmental Management (EM), National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Department of Interior, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well as industry and other public stakeholders. Read more about uranium and enrichment

DOE’s Excess Uranium Inventory

The Department of Energy manages an inventory of excess uranium acquired through U.S. defense programs, the U.S.-Russia Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement, the former DOE uranium enrichment enterprise, and other sources. This uranium has a potential monetary value, and also plays a role in achieving vital DOE missions and maintaining a healthy domestic nuclear infrastructure. DOE supports the efficient management and orderly disposition of this excess uranium in a manner that returns a fair market value on U.S. government assets and does not have a material adverse impact to the domestic nuclear fuel industry. In accordance to DOE Order 410.2- Management of Nuclear Materials, the Office of Nuclear Energy must assess the impact of a sale or transfer of DOE natural or low-enriched uranium on the domestic uranium mining, conversion or enrichment industries consistent with applicable law. To carry out this responsibility, NE-54 closely follows developments in the nuclear fuel markets worldwide that could potentially impact the supply of fuel to U.S. nuclear power reactors.

The Office of Nuclear Energy, through NE-54, works in close coordination with EM and the NNSA in these duties. On December 16, 2008, the Department of Energy Excess Uranium Inventory Management Plan was issued. This plan identifies various excess uranium inventories and describes sales or other disposition of the inventories that are under consideration or may be considered in the future. The plan is anticipated to be periodically updated to reflect new and evolving information, policies, and programs.

DOE Gaseous Diffusion Plant Sites

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the USEC Privatization Act (April 1996) led to the privatization of DOE’s Uranium Enrichment Enterprise. The enterprise first transitioned as the United States Enrichment Corporation, then a government corporation, beginning on July 1, 1993. Later this became USEC Inc. (USEC), a fully privatized company, by means of a public stock offering on July 29, 1998.

The Department’s gaseous diffusion plants at Paducah, Kentucky, and Portsmouth, Ohio, were leased to USEC in 1993 for the purpose of uranium enrichment. USEC ceased enrichment operations at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in May 2001, but continues to operate the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

USEC anticipates building an American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) at facilities under lease from DOE at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant site. The ACP is based on enhancements made by USEC to DOE-developed centrifuge technology.  In June 2012, DOE and, USEC and American Centrifuge Demonstration, LLC, signed a set of agreements that will enable the research, development and demonstration (RD&D) project at the ACP in Piketon, Ohio, to move forward while providing significant taxpayer protections. Under the cost-shared cooperative agreement with strengthened management structures for this American Centrifuge Cascade Demonstration Test Program, the participants will work to build out and test the first cascade of centrifuges and plant support systems at ACP.  ACP is currently the only national initiative to establish an advanced domestic enrichment capability based on U.S.-origin technology, which is necessary to support defense program needs, including supporting tritium production requirements for the U.S. nuclear stockpile. 

NE-54 program office closely coordinates with DOE’s Oak Ridge Office (ORO) and DOE’s EM in support of NE’s statutory and policy responsibilities at the Paducah and Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant sites. These activities include the Department’s oversight of the cooperative agreement for the ACP RD&D project; ORO’s ongoing responsibilities of administering the lease with USEC; providing regulatory oversight of safety of certain DOE-owned facilities; and coordinating with the NRC in leased areas under NRC regulatory responsibility.

Annual Report to Congress on the Effect of the U.S.-Russia Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement on the Domestic Nuclear Fuel Industry

The Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation Concerning the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons (HEU Agreement) was signed on February 18, 1993.  The HEU Agreement implemented as a commercial agreement, provides for the purchase over a 20-year period (1994–2013) of 500 metric tons (MT) of weapons-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) converted to commercial-grade low enriched uranium (LEU) from the Russian Federation (Russia).  The Russian LEU is sold in the U.S. nuclear fuel market to commercial nuclear power plants through the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), the U.S. Executive Agent for the commercial agreement.

The NNSA manages the highly enriched uranium transparency program, which fulfills the nonproliferation obligations of the Agreement by negotiating and implementing monitoring rights and providing technical assessments to ensure the elimination of Russian weapons-origin highly enriched uranium through its conversion to LEU.  Section 3112(b) (10) of the United States Enrichment Corporation Privatization Act (Pub. L. No. 104-134) requires the President to report annually to Congress on the effect the low enriched uranium delivered under the HEU Agreement is having on the domestic uranium mining, conversion, and enrichment industries and the operation of the gaseous diffusion plants. NE-54 prepares and coordinates review of this document with other DOE and federal offices before the report is submitted to Congress on behalf of the President.