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US conversion plant suspends UF6 production

“If either one of those [conversion] facilities were to go down, even though the conversion markets are on aggregate oversupplied, it would have a tremendous impact,”

Honeywell is temporarily to suspend uranium hexafluoride (UF6) production at its Metropolis, Illinois plant pending an improvement in business conditions, the company announced yesterday. The USA’s only uranium conversion plant has been in a scheduled outage since October.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-US-conversion-plant-suspends-UF6-production-2111177.html

The company said its decision to suspend production was a result of “significant challenges” faced by the nuclear industry, including a situation with a current worldwide oversupply of UF6. In particular, it said, the decrease in demand from Japan and Germany following the Fukushima accident of 2011 has had a significant impact, and continues to create an oversupplied market for the uranium fuel cycle and a downward trend in uranium markets.

The company cited analysis from Energy Resources International, which found that, since Fukushima, global demand for nuclear fuel has dropped 15%. It is not anticipated to rise before 2020.

“As a result of this business outlook, Honeywell plans to temporarily idle production of UF6 at its Metropolis site, while maintaining minimal operations to support a future restart as business conditions improve,” a company spokesman said. “Honeywell intends to restart once business conditions improve and will keep the plant in a state of readiness and continue to support minimal on-site operations to ensure a successful restart. In the interim, the company has made alternative plans to meet all customer contractual commitments.”

The plant has been in a routine annual outage since October. “This action means we will not restart production as originally scheduled,” Honeywell told World Nuclear News.

The maximum output of the Metropolis plant had already been reduced to align with demand.

Uranium must be converted from uranium oxide – the “yellowcake” that is shipped from uranium mines and mills – to gaseous UF6 before it can be enriched in fissile uranium-235 for use in nuclear fuel. In addition to Metropolis, commercial conversion plants are also in operation in Canada, China, France and Russia. According to the latest edition of World Nuclear Association’s biennial report on the nuclear fuel market, The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2017-2035, published in September, conversion and enrichment capacity should be sufficient to meet demand under Reference scenario assumptions until 2030.

Speaking at the Association’s annual symposium in September, Tenam Corporation President Fletcher Newton, who chaired the working group responsible for drafting the report, said the segmented nature of the markets, with production centred on a limited number of plants, presented a challenge.

“If either one of those [conversion] facilities were to go down, even though the conversion markets are on aggregate oversupplied, it would have a tremendous impact,” he said at that time.

Metropolis was built in the 1950s to meet military conversion requirements, and began providing UF6 for civilian use in the late 1960s. The plant’s output is exclusively marketed by ConverDyn.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

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November 22, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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