WASHINGTON (CN) – Operators of nuclear facilities that store depleted uranium as uranium hexafluoride gas – known as UF6 – will have to provide the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with plans to deal with accidents involving the highly radioactive gas, under new regulations proposed by the agency.
Current regulations do not require nuclear reactor licensees to conduct integrated safety analyses of a UF6 leak. The gas is stored in steel cylinders that can hold up to 12.7 metric tons.
According to the Argonne National Laboratory, there are at least 686,000 metric tons of the gas stored in nearly 60,000 cylinders, eight of which are known to have leaked UF6 into the environment.
The laboratory also says that some of the cylinders, which have been in use since the 1950s, are showing signs of external corrosion.
The Department of Energy is working to convert existing stockpiles UF6 to more stable forms of solid uranium oxide which can be store more safely than gases.