US-based Bechtel has been selected by European enrichment services and fuel cycle company Urenco to support the expansion of its Tails Management Facility (TMF) at the Capenhurst site in the UK. The facility stores low concentration uranium tails for further use, or conversion to a chemically stable form for disposal. Urenco says the TMF will help enable the UK’s nuclear energy security strategy, which includes plans to deliver 24 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050, providing about a quarter of the domestic electricity supply.  

In addition to its head office near London, Urenco operates enrichment facilities in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the USA, using its own centrifuge technology. Urenco's board approved the construction of the TMF facility in 2009. It comprises a tails deconversion facility and a number of associated storage, maintenance and residue processing facilities. Urenco received regulatory and planning approval for the facility in 2010. Urenco originally expected operations to begin by the end of 2015. However, the date was subsequently revised to 2017 and then to 2018, after construction delays. A ceremony was held in June 2019 to mark the official opening of the TMF, which operated by Urenco subsidiary Urenco ChemPlants.

Chris Chater, Chief Technical Officer for Urenco, said Bechtel “will bring with them years of experience in delivering complex engineering projects and this is key as we embark on the first project in our capital investment programme”. Bechtel will provide front end engineering & design (FEED) services for the expansion project. This will enable Urenco to convert more ‘tails’ of depleted uranium hexafluoride for safe storage and will also produce hydrogen fluoride for the use in refrigerants, pharmaceuticals and other products.

Cavendish Nuclear will support Bechtel as its subconsultant. Bechtel and Cavendish Nuclear have an established track record of successfully working together for UK customers at Sellafield, the UK’s oldest nuclear storage facility, and through its collaboration to support infrastructure upgrade work for the Royal Navy in Devonport.

“Whilst there is no shortage of enriched fuel in the industry today, we are planning for the future as more governments put stable policy frameworks in place that are in favour of nuclear energy – and we grow our customer base,” Urenco said.

Image: Interior of the tails management facility in Capenhurst, UK (courtesy of Urenco)