Honeywell has been given regulatory approval to resume full operation of its Metropolis uranium conversion plant in Illinois. The plant, which had been idle for over a year, will be restarted by mid-July.

During the plant’s annual maintenance outage, which began in May 2012, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) conducted inspections to assess the plant’s readiness for extreme external events such powerful earthquakes or tornados. These inspections uncovered some areas for improvement and Honeywell committed to keep Metropolis offline until the NRC’s requirements were met.

With the necessary upgrades completed, the NRC gave approval in June for the restart of front-end operations, including ore preparation work and production of solid uranium tetrafluoride (UF4).

However, the NRC has now completed its evaluation of the plant’s back-end operations – including fluorination and distillation – and granted Honeywell permission to also resume their operation.

NRC administrator for Region II Victor McCree commented, “We have inspected the changes made by the company and found that the facility has taken the necessary actions to meet NRC requirements. Honeywell has appropriately enhanced the plant’s ability to withstand earthquakes and tornadoes.”

Metropolis plant manager Larry Smith said, “With this final NRC approval, we will be able to begin full production upon completion of our comprehensive restart preparations.” He added, “We anticipate being ready to restart within the next 7-10 days.”

Built in the 1950s, the Metropolis plant has undergone various upgrades and expansions over the decades to reach a nameplate capacity of 15,000 tonnes of UF6 per year. Metropolis – the only uranium conversion facility in the USA – is operated by Converdyn on behalf of its two 50% owners, Honeywell and General Atomics.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News