The Department of Energy has started negotiations with Areva for the sale of off-specification uranium hexafluoride owned by the federal government, DOE announced Wednesday.
If awarded the contract, Areva's fuel fabrication plant in Richland will convert the material into nuclear fuel for use in commercial power plants in the United States.
Areva has well-established technology and licensed operations for blending this type of material with other uranium feed material, according to DOE.
"While this material serves as a source for nuclear energy production, it also helps the DOE extract value out of a material that does not meet commercial specifications," Areva said in a statement.
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The start of negotiations followed a DOE request for offers in July for depleted and off-specification uranium hexafluoride inventories. The materials now are at the Paducah, Ky., and Portsmouth, Ohio, gaseous diffusion plant facilities.
DOE has entered negotiations with GE Hitachi's Global Laser Enrichment for the depleted uranium hexafluoride inventory. It proposed building and operating a new laser enrichment facility that could use some of the Paducah plant and provide hundreds of permanent jobs for highly skilled technical workers. The Associated Press reported that the Paducah plant has been a major employer for two generations but is being mothballed.
The two potential projects "provide value to American taxpayers by reducing the costs of cleanup at the sites and creating high-paying technical jobs in the state of Kentucky," said Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of energy, in a statement.