Plant would convert DUHF into more stable uranium oxide The existing W-ECP facility in Zelenogorsk, near St Petersburg. Photo courtesy Tvel. Three Russian organisations have signed an agreement for the development of a project to build a facility in Novouralsk, about 70 km north of Yekaterinburg, for the defluorination of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUHF).

Sate nuclear fuel company Tvel, the Central Design and Technological Institute and the Ural Electrochemical Plant said they will prepare an investment rationale and carry out engineering survey for a DUHF processing facility at the Urals Electrochemical Combine (UEKhK) site in Novouralsk.

They said plans for a new facility, which will be Russia’s third, were in line with Moscow’s policy of reducing stocks of DUHF, an unstable waste product of uranium enrichment.

The proposed facility would use similar processes to those used at the existing W-ECP facility in Zelenogorsk, near St Petersburg. The W-ECP plant, based on technology from French company Orano, converts DUHF into the more stable uranium oxide through a process of defluorination.

Uranium oxide can be stored for a long time without environmental risks. Depleted uranium oxide is also a raw material for the production of nuclear fuel for fast neutron reactors such as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for the BN-800 fast breeder reactor at Beloyarsk. Fluorine-containing products resulting from the defluorination of DUHFs – hydrofluoric acid and anhydrous hydrogen fluoride – are sold as chemical products and used both in the nuclear and other industries.

Russia’s experience in operating the first W-ECP plant led to a decision to install a second W2-ECP plant. A contract was signed with French company Orano at the end of 2019. The launch of the second installation, scheduled for 2023, will increase the capacity of the processing plant from 10,000 to 20,000 tonnes of DUHF a year.

Date: Thursday, 13 August 2020
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