Shuttered Facility Hampers Uranium Recycling at Y-12

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Global Security Newswire Staff
May 16, 2014, 8:24 a.m.

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.

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