The continued closure of a key facility at the Y-12 nuclear-weapons site is hampering efforts to recycle enriched uranium for reuse in warheads.
The Oxide Conversion Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex was last operated in March 2013 -- and then reportedly only for a short period -- before it was shut down, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Thursday. Prior to that, the plant had not operated in roughly a year.
"OCF remains out of service at this time," according to Steven Wyatt of the Energy Department's semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration.
A staff report produced by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board previously said the plan was to have the facility up and running by early last month.
The facility converts weapons-grade uranium from an oxide form to uranium tetrafluoride, which is then processed further to become purified metal that can be used in efforts to extend the shelf-life of nuclear warheads. Though there are other ways to acquire the uranium metal needed for life-extension activities, the suspension in plant operations could mean that a backlog is accumulating of highly enriched uranium waiting to be recycled, the newspaper reported.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.