Centrus to prepare Oak Ridge facility for demolition

03 October 2018

Centrus Energy Corp has been awarded a USD15 million work authorisation by the US Department of Energy (DOE) for decontamination and decommissioning to prepare the K-1600 facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for demolition.

The East Tennessee Technology Park (Image: DOE)

The company has leased the K-1600 facility at the East Tennessee Technology Park - the former K-25 site - from the DOE since 2002 to test and demonstrate its American Centrifuge uranium enrichment technology. Centrus has been conducting centrifuge manufacturing, engineering and design at its own nearby Technology and Manufacturing Center (TMC) in south Oak Ridge, at the former Boeing plant.

Earlier this year, Centrus obtained a licence from the State of Tennessee to allow for future testing activities at TMC so that the company can consolidate its future centrifuge development efforts at a single, Centrus-owned facility, removing the need for it to continue using the K-1600 facility.

Under the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) work authorisation, Centrus will remove and dispose of all equipment and material from the K-1600 facility to render the plant non-radiologically contaminated. This work is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2019, after which the DOE will be able to turn the facility over to a contractor to demolish the building.

K-1600 is one of the last remaining legacy structures on the 2200-acre (890-hectare) site of the World War II-era uranium enrichment plant. In addition to defence missions, the plant produced enriched uranium for the commercial nuclear power industry from 1945 to 1985. In 1987, DOE terminated uranium enrichment operations in Oak Ridge and closed the site. Decontaminating and decommissioning K-1600 is part of a larger effort by DOE to clean up the site so that it can be reused for commercial and industrial purposes by the local community. Under its Vision 2020 programme, DOE aims to complete clean-up at the site by the end of 2020.

Centrus said it recently completed similar D&D work at its 120-machine demonstration cascade, which it completed on schedule and under budget. The Lead Centrifuge Facility (LCF), located at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) in Piketon, Ohio, was set up to demonstrate the effectiveness of the gas centrifuge design and equipment for use in the planned American Centrifuge Plant. The prototype lead cascade started operations in August 2006.

In early 2016, Centrus completed a successful three-year demonstration of the LCF, demonstrating the long-term performance and reliability of the machines under actual operating conditions. In March that year, the company notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its decision to permanently cease operations and its intention to decontaminate and decommission the facility. The DOE had announced in September 2015 that it would not fund additional operations as the centrifuge cascade had successfully delivered the necessary data.

Centrus president and CEO Daniel Poneman said: "As we consolidate our centrifuge work into our own facility, this work authorisation for K-1600 allows us to help the Department meet its timetable for returning the East Tennessee Technology Park site to the community for reuse and economic development. The new D&D work builds on our recent successful effort to D&D our Ohio facility, advancing our strategic objective to continue to leverage our unique technical capabilities to diversify our business."

Although the American Centrifuge Plant has not been built, Centrus continues to perform engineering and testing work on centrifuge enrichment technology under contract to the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to preserve and advance US-origin uranium enrichment technology to support future national security and energy security needs.

Centrus said it continues to discuss with DOE "the additional development, testing and demonstration work on US uranium enrichment technology for use by the US government for national security purposes".

DOE announced last week that it had exercised its option to extend its contract with Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth LLC for D&D of the GDP for a period of 30 months beyond the 30 September expiration date of the initial contract, which began in March 2011. The estimated value of the option period is around USD850 million. An initial 30-month option was exercised in March 2016.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News