Just two weeks before ownership of the Springfields site in the UK is due to transfer from BNFL to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), BNFL has signed a ten-year toll-conversion agreement with Cameco for uranium conversion services from the site’s Line 4 Hex plant. Under the agreement, BNFL will annually convert a base quantity of 5 million kg of uranium (kgU) as UO3 to UF6 for Cameco.
In 2001, BNFL announced that the Springfields facility would close in 2006. This new agreement will keep the plant operating for the duration of the agreement. According to NDA spokesman Richard Flynn, since the NDA only becomes fully operational on 1 April 2005 – on which date it will assume ownership of Springfields – approval of this contract was still a matter for the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). A spokesperson for the DTI confirmed that her department had approved the contract, adding that the DTI is “satisfied this contract is entirely consistent with the NDA’s remit.” Noting it was government policy that the NDA should maximise funding available for clean-up activities, she told NEI: “The income will offset the costs of the eventual decommissioning of the Hex plant itself, and potentially in respect of other facilities.”
Cameco currently refines uranium concentrates to UO3 at the Blind River refinery and ships this material to the Port Hope conversion facility. Both facilities are located in Ontario. Under the agreement with BNFL, Cameco will also ship UO3 from its Blind River refinery to the Hex plant for conversion.
Cameco will invest about C$6 million ($5.0 million) to expand production and drum-filling facilities at its Blind River refinery and C$4 million ($3.3 million) to construct drum tipping and washing facilities at the Springfields plant. UO3 shipments from Blind River are expected to begin later this year with UF6 conversion shipments from BNFL starting in mid-2006.
“This agreement allows us to effectively achieve a significant increase in UF6 production capacity, sales and market share by investing a small amount of capital,” said Jerry Grandey, Cameco’s president and CEO. “At the same time, it preserves Springfields’ production capacity at a critical time in the industry and enables us to lower our unit costs by utilising Blind River’s unused capacity.”
Historically, the Blind River refinery has not operated anywhere near full capacity since it has been limited by the capacity of Cameco’s conversion facility at Port Hope, which receives essentially all of Blind River’s UO3 production. Cameco currently has more than a quarter of the West’s UF6 conversion capacity from its Port Hope plant.
|Arak and Esfahan|
As well as the main, essentially political, discussion, parallel sessions were held on
Manouchehr Madadi described the heavy water production plant at Arak, the first stage of which is now operating. In addition to its use as a reactor moderator and coolant, he said heavy water has wide applications in Iran including in the pharmaceutical, biotechnological, and biological fields as well as in cancer diagnosis and control and domestic production dispenses with the need for imports. The Arak Heavy Water Complex, which uses girdler sulfide (GS) technology and distillation, has 12 different units, including three main and nine side units. The main units are number 2 (which has been operational for some time and where H2S is stored in liquid form); 3 (the GS unit which came on stream recently); and 4 (which is the final distillation phase). The complex’s capacity will rise to 16t from 8t per day once unit 4 goes into operation. Madadi said no foreign experts had been involved in the designing and construction process of the project had been implemented solely by Iranian technicians and experts.
Work at the UCF, which converts uranium yellowcake to UF6 and which is under IAEA safeguards, is currently suspended with 1000 workers laid off. Building work
• Ammonium uranium carbonate (AUC) is produced from U3O8 (300t of U3O8 is converted to 480t AUC each year), which is used to produce uranium tetrafluoride (UF4). The AUC will be converted to UO2 and then, with HF gas, will be converted to UF4 (282t/y). About 95% of the UF4 (265t/y) will be used to produce UF6 and 5% to produce U-ingot.
The ZPP occupies approximately 54 acres including industrial areas, warehouses, administration and engineering supportive buildings, landscape and extension area. It will produce 50t of zirconium sponge a year, 10t of tube and 2t of strip and bar from zirconium alloys, as well as 100t of magnesium and 5t of hafnium. The plant can also produce 99.99% pure magnesium (by electrolysis and vacuum distillation), zirconium alloys , titanium and its alloys, and can undertake ferrous and non-ferrous metal casting. The primary raw material is zircon concentrate with purity of 63%.
The health and safety conditions at both facilities were impressive.