US Oak Ridge to process remaining uranium-233

28 January 2020

Hot cell in building 2026 before clean-out (Credit DOE)The US Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) said that renovations are underway at Oak Ridge to prepare a facility to process a high-dose portion of the site’s uranium-233 inventory.

The new facility will enable EM to convert the material into a disposal-ready form after extracting an unprecedented amount of thorium for next-generation cancer research.

Contractor Isotek, a subsidiary of Atkins, is performing the work to support EM’s highest priority project at Oak Ridge National Laboratory: to eliminate the US  inventory of uranium-233.

The U-233 is stored in the world’s oldest operating nuclear facility, Building 3019. The isotope had been created as an alternative fuel source for nuclear reactors in decades past but was not viable.

High-dose uranium-233 canisters will be processed in Building 2026 hot cells with protective shielding and remote mechanical arms needed to handle the material.

Workers are upgrading the hot cells, which have radiological contamination from previous DOE research missions.

Rooms in Building 2026 will be remodelled to store large tanks of downblended material. A two-storey mixing silo will also be constructed outside the facility to provide cement to mix with the downblended material.

Isotek is currently processing low-dose canisters of uranium-233 in gloveboxes, and it expects to begin hot cell processing later this year.

Photo: Hot cell in Building 2026 before cleanout (Credit DOE)

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