The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a license to International Isotopes Fluorine Products (IIFP) Inc. to construct and operate a deconversion plant in Lea County, New Mexico.
The plant is the first major deconversion facility licensed by the NRC that will recover fluoride products depleted uranium hexafluoride for commercial sale. Commercial uses for fluorine can include manufacturing electronics, solar panels and semiconductors.
Under the licence IIFP can process about 8 million pounds per year of depleted uranium hexafluoride, or DUF6. The facility will deconvert the DUF6 by chemically extracting high purity fluoride compounds and anhydrous hydrogen fluoride, NRC said.
That process leaves behind depleted uranium oxide compounds that are more chemically stable than DUF6 (a corrosive chemical, which can if exposed to moisture, form highly poisonous hydrogen fluoride gas). Depleted uranium oxide compounds are generally suitable for disposal as low-level radioactive waste, according to NRC.
IIFP originally submitted its licence application to the NRC in December 2009, and the NRC had been reviewing the application since that time.
“The receipt of the NRC licence has long been identified by the Company as a prerequisite for entering any serious negotiations for project financing,” said Steve Laflin, president and CEO.
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