International Isotopes Inc has selected a team headed by engineering and construction company Parsons to design and build a facility to deconvert depleted uranium hexafluoride.

International Isotopes announced the selection of Parsons as the prime contractor for the project to build the 6500 tonnes per year plant near Hobbs, New Mexico. Parsons will lead a team consisting of Merrick & Company, Burns & Roe Enterprises Inc and Baker Concrete Construction. Under the terms of a letter of intent signed by International Isotopes and Parsons, the team will be engaged to build the plant on a turnkey basis. Parsons will be the lead contractor responsible for design, engineering, fabrication, procurement and construction of the project, “complete in every detail.”

The plant will deconvert depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) – the so-called tails left behind after uranium enrichment – into uranium tetrafluoride, which will then be used as a feedstock for International Isotopes’ own patented fluorine extraction process (FEP) to produce high-quality fluoride gases.

As well as producing specialist fluoride gases for industrial applications, the plant will also produce anhydrous hydrofluoric acid and depleted uranium oxide. International Isotopes plans to sell the anhydrous hydrofluoric acid as a by-product. The depleted uranium oxide will be disposed of as low-level radioactive waste.

International Isotopes CEO Steve Lafflin acknowledged the expertise represented by the Parsons team, particularly Parsons’ direct engineering experience with DUF6 processes and experience with the Urenco USA uranium enrichment facility at Eunice, New Mexico, the first phase of which is currently ramping up towards full capacity production in 2013. Parsons’ experience gave his company “a great deal of confidence” in its choice of contractor, he said. International Isotopes already has in place a five-year contract to deconvert tails from the Urenco USA plant.

Idaho Falls-based International Isotopes submitted a licence application for the New Mexico plant in January 2010, and later that year the US Department of Energy approved the first part of a $65 million loan guarantee application for the plant.

A 13,500 tonnes per year deconversion facility in Ohio, built by Areva, Energy Solutions and Burns & Roe joint venture Uranium Disposition Services (UDS) for the Department of Energy, began operations in September 2010 to tackle the USA’s estimated inventory of over 700,000 tonnes of DUF6 from fifty years of operations at the country’s gaseous diffusion enrichment plants.