Paducah and Portsmouth – Babcock & Wilcox Conversion Services (BWCS) began work at the Paducah and Portsmouth sites in March with the goal of making two depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion plants fully operational.
The DOE site operations contactor achieved that goal at 3:43 p.m. Sept. 30 when all seven conversion lines at the plants were designated fully operational.
“Our next goal is to bring all seven lines to steady state commercial production by the end of the fiscal year 2012,” said George E. Dials, project manager and BWCS president.
DUF6 is a byproduct of past uranium enrichment operations at gaseous diffusion plants. Large-scale uranium enrichment in the U.S. began as part of atomic bomb development by the Manhattan Project during World War II.
Decades of uranium enrichment created a legacy of DUF6 stored in 63,000 cylinders at the Portsmouth and Paducah gaseous diffusion sites. In total, the cylinders hold approximately 740,000 metric tons of DUF6 that will be converted to a stable chemical form that is acceptable for transportation, beneficial reuse or disposal.
“I’m pleased with BWCS’s performance in safely achieving the fully operational milestones,” said Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office DUF6 Program Manager Jack Zimmerman. “A lot has been accomplished but our focus must now shift to improving internal work processes to ramp up the production to full commercial status.”
The DUF6 project also marked a safety milestone: 2 million work hours without a lost-time occupational injury or illness.
“We’re enormously proud of the people who came together to reach both these milestones,” Dials said. “Everybody worked hard, long hours with a safety focus that was essential.”