Fuel manufacturing

Enrichment and fuel fabrication facilities waste

The product from uranium recovery facilities is processed to enrich the fissile content. Tailings containing depleted uranium (DU) are a byproduct of the enrichment process. Fuel manufacturing facilities fabricate nuclear fuel assemblies for LWRs containing low-enriched uranium. This activity includes receipt, possession, storage, and transfer of special nuclear mate­rial. Other licensed activities supporting fuel manufacturing include uranium storage, scrap recovery, waste disposal, and laboratory services. Radioactive waste from these processes, which varies in type and amount, is managed within the classes described in Table 18.2.

Depending on available quantities and long-term and short-term needs, DU could be a resource for a variety of applications and uses, in which case it is considered source material. If DU is not a resource, the NRC catego­rizes it as Class A LLW. When 10 CFR Part 61 was developed, the disposal of large quantities of DU was not anticipated. However, with the recent licensing of fuel enrichment facilities, which will produce large quantities of DU waste, NRC determined it appropriate to revisit the issue. Therefore, NRC is examining whether the disposal of large quantities of DU from enrichment plants warrants additional, site-specific disposal protections to ensure long-term safety. As an interim measure, the NRC has issued interim guidance to states that regulate the disposal of large quantities of DU (NRC, 2010).

The DOE and private corporations (e. g., United States Enrichment Cor­poration) currently possess and store DU. The DOE manages a large stock of DU at two gaseous diffusion enrichment plants, and continues to manage it as source material available for reuse. If a decision is made that this mate­rial has no potential use, it can be disposed of in DOE or commercial LLW disposal facilities, provided the waste meets the disposal facility ’s waste acceptance requirements. Some DOE DU has been disposed of as LLW at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), formerly the Nevada Test Site.

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