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.