Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Reactive Interventions to discuss future Uranic Materials Processing Projects

Executive summary

Purpose of intervention

I participated in a meeting, at the request of the licensee, to discuss the potential manufacture of uranium hexafluoride using reprocessed uranium feed stock.

The licensee’s Managing Director requested a meeting to discuss aspects of the longevity of legacy uranic residue processing at the licensee’s facilities.

Interventions Carried Out by ONR

Discussions were held with the licensee, regarding the acceptability to the regulator of a recently developed proposal, to potentially manufacture uranium hexafluoride, using reprocessed uranium feed stock. 

The remaining lifetime of the ageing legacy uranic residue processing facilities at Springfields is a matter of significant regulatory interest.  I met with the Managing Director to rehearse that I perceived these facilities to be a ‘unique national asset’, undertaking valuable hazard reduction work, by processing legacy uranic residues from Springfields and a range of other nuclear licensed sites, stabilising and recovering uranium from mixed residues. 

Explanation of Judgement if Safety System Not Judged to be Adequate

Not applicable.

Key Findings, Inspector's Opinions and Reasons for Judgements Made

The licensee’s proposal would be to utilise the uranium hexafluoride manufacturing plant, which had shut down in August 2014, to manufacture uranium hexafluoride, using a reprocessed uranium material feed stock. The reprocessed uranium feed stock material would require some additional preliminary processing, to remove some of the more radioactive fission products, ‘cleaning up’ the uranium, so that it could then be processed through the existing manufacturing facilities, without a significant additional radiological challenge to plant personnel.  The licensee provided an appropriate degree of detail to demonstrate due consideration of the means of mitigating the additional radiological challenge of using a reprocessed uranium feed stock.

I encouraged the licensee to maximise the albeit limited future use of the legacy uranic residue chemical processing facilities, maximising hazard reduction of a range of legacy uranic residue materials.  I advised the licensee to ensure that timely funding was secured, to enable these facilities to operate for a further eighteen months or so, extending beyond the current plan to shut these facilities in about a year’s time. 

Conclusions of Intervention

I concluded that the licensee had given appropriate attention, commensurate with this early stage of this potential project, to consideration of both licence condition 22 and IRR 99 radiological protection matters and that the licensee was likely to be able to prepare an adequate safety case.

I concluded that the licensee was giving adequate attention to the implementation of the processing and disposition of legacy uranic materials, which would otherwise become legacy radioactive wastes.