The first new commercial uranium enrichment facility is currently being operated by URENCO in south east New Mexico and several others are planned for construction in Ohio, Idaho, and North Carolina. These four facilities could produce more than 80 million pounds of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) per year.
DUF6 (or tails) have been generated and managed safely in the U.S. for several decades. However, it is a fluoride compound that can react with water or ethanol to produce toxic fumes of hydrofluoric acid. To protect against accidental release the DUF6 is kept in sturdy cylinders before and after enrichment, as well as during storage and transportation.
The U.S. Department of Energy is constructing two facilities for the disposition of the 1.6 billion pounds of DUF6 that was generated at DOE-owned uranium enrichment plants in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. These facilities are required by law to accept commercially-generated DUF6, but won’t be available to treat the commercial tails for approximately 25 years while they treat the existing DOE-generated tails material.
The INIS uranium de-conversion and FEP facility will provide a near-term commercial option for DUF6 disposition. This will allow commercial generators of DUF6 to avoid the accumulation of large on-site stockpiles of DUF6 tails over the next 20 years. The INIS depleted uranium de-conversion process will safely produce economically and environmentally important high purity fluoride and fluoride gas products while significantly reducing waste byproducts. All of the products produced at the facility will be sold to commercial markets and the depleted uranium oxide resulting from the de-conversion process will be disposed of as low-level radioactive waste.