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What are the options for managing depleted uranium in the future?

The options for managing depleted uranium were evaluated in the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Alternative Strategies for the Long-Term Management and Use of Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride, which was released in April of 1999. (The PEIS can be found at http://web.ead.anl.gov/uranium/final/finalpeis.cfm).

The alternatives that were evaluated and compared in this PEIS represented the consensus of both DOE and the general public regarding reasonable strategies for the long-term management of depleted UF6. The different management options considered in the PEIS included the following:

  • No Action - Continue storing depleted UF6 cylinders indefinitely in yards at the Paducah, Portsmouth, and ETTP sites.
  • Long-Term Storage as UF6 - Store UF6 in cylinders in yards, buildings, or a mine.
  • Long-Term Storage as Uranium Oxide - Chemically convert UF6 to a more stable oxide form, such as UO2 or U3O8 , and store the oxide in buildings, belowground vaults, or a mine.
  • Use as Uranium Oxide - Chemically convert UF6 to an oxide, and use the oxide in a product, such as shielding in spent nuclear fuel or high-level waste storage containers (casks).
  • Use as Uranium Metal - Chemically convert UF6 to uranium metal, and use the metal in a product, such as shielding in spent nuclear fuel or high-level waste storage containers (casks).
  • Disposal - Chemically convert the UF6 to uranium oxide, such as UO2 or U3O8, and dispose of the oxide as low-level waste in shallow earthen structures, belowground vaults, or a mine.

After the publication of the PEIS, it was suggested that the depleted UF6 could also be converted to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) and disposed. Several studies indicated that UF4 may be suitable for disposal.

DOE's current plans for managing its inventory of depleted UF6 are discussed in the response to the question, "What is going to happen to the uranium hexafluoride stored in the United States?," elsewhere in these FAQs.



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