As the government and its contractors move forward with a revised strategy for the Uranium Processing Facility, the emphasis remains on getting out of the aged 9212 uranium complex as soon as possible. And doing that apparently requires the development and/or enhancement of alternative technologies for processing bomb-grade uranium.
One of those technologies is an “electro-refining” method for purifying the uranium. Although the National Nuclear Security Administration has acknowledged that project, it has provided few details about plans for deploying the technology or the progress.
As early as 2012, staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board noted plans to have electro-refining capabilities — and other technologies — placed in Building 9215 (a production facility near 9212) by the end of 2016. However, the UPF strategy has been revamped since then, based on recommendations of the Red Team, and it’s not clear how the ER pilot project is progress or even where. More recently, the first work with Electro-refining was reported to be in 2019.
Asked if the work was being carried out in Building 9215, federal spokesman Steven Wyatt said, “We cannot confirm the location of ER until the conclusion of the review of alternatives (in Critical Decision-1, due this summer). When pressed, Wyatt said his response “doesn’t mean that it won’t go into 9215.”
Wyatt said the Electro-refining project was approved for Critical Decision-0 (mission need) in September 2014. “The next phase of the project CD-1 (approval of alternative selection and cost range) is anticipated to be achieved this summer following an analysis of alternatives,” he said.
However, the cost and scheduling of the project won’t be available until Critical Decision-2 (approval of performance baseline), Wyatt said.
That should occur in the FY2016-17 timeframe, he said.
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