Y-12 looking for tons (thousands of tons) of high-purity depleted uranium

Y12 gate_MP (2)

KNS photo/Michael Patrick

According to information posted last week on its website, Consolidated Nuclear Security needs to acquire up to 6,800 metric tons of high-purity depleted uranium “and related material and services.”

CNS is the contractor at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and a spokeswoman said the depleted uranium would be used in production of nuclear weapons. “That’s what we do,” Ellen Boatner said in response to questions.

“The DU will be used for production purposes,” she said.

Depleted uranium is uranium stock that has lower-than-normal amounts of U-235, the fissionable isotope. It’s often a byproduct of uranium-enrichment processes that extract and concentrate U-235 in products for reactor fuel and other uses.

Y-12, of course, is the nation’s designated “Uranium Center of Excellence,” and the plant is well known as the primary repository for highly enriched (bomb-grade) uranium. The Oak Ridge plant also has deep experience with depleted uranium, but Boatner said Y-12 doesn’t have certain capabilities.

“While Y-12 does  have varying forms of depleted uranium, the EOI (Expression of Interest) calls for high purity DU, which historically has been purchased for use at the site. Y-12 does not have the ability to create high purity DU.”

The expression of interest posted by CNS is not a solicitation. It’s an effort to see what capabilities are available for providing the needed DU.

“The purpose of this request is to identify small business sources and the availability of commercial sources and services,” CNS said in the announcement.

CNS said it is potentially seeking sources for depleted uranium metal, DU metal “intermediary products” (such as depleted uranium tetrafluoride), DU metal production, containers for transporting and storage of depleted uranium products and metal, and a variety of support services.

The announcement said the National Nuclear Security Administration can supply up to 1,100 cylinders of uranium hexafluoride for possible use in DU metal production.

Responses are due to CNS by Feb. 5.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.