FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 1996
NEWS MEDIA CONTACTS:
Barbara Wetherell or Matt Donoghue, 202/586-5806
Barbara Arnold (USEC), 301/564-3354
Elizabeth Stuckle (USEC), 301/564-3399
Clinton Administration Takes Strong Step to Reduce Global Nuclear Danger
Surplus Bomb-Grade Uranium Never Again To Be Used in Weapons
Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary announced today that the Department of Energy (DOE) will blend down surplus highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) for sale as commercial reactor fuel. This announcement, formally issued as a Record of Decision, meets Clinton Administration objectives to reduce the global nuclear danger by eliminating excess weapons usable nuclear materials. In 1995 President Clinton announced that approximately 175 metric tons of HEU are surplus to U.S. defense needs.
"This decision will ensure that the Clinton administration's ongoing nuclear weapons dismantlement efforts are irreversible by eliminating much of the material needed to build weapons," said O'Leary. "By selling the LEU for peaceful reuse, we also will provide hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for the Treasury, reduce storage and security costs, and reduce the volume of radioactive waste."
The decision announced today follows DOE's June publication of the Disposition of Surplus Highly Enriched Uranium Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The publication outlines the Department's Preferred Alternative to blend down and gradually sell up to 85 percent of the surplus HEU for commercial use in reactors over a period of about 20 years. The remainder would be difficult and costly to make usable for commercial purposes and will be treated as waste.
The HEU down-blending activities would take place at up to four sites: two DOE sites (the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.) and two commercial sites that are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for HEU operations (Babcock & Wilcox in Lynchburg, Va., and Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., in Erwin, Tenn.).
As a first step in this process of converting the surplus HEU to commercial reactor fuel, the Department will transfer ownership of 50 metric tons of its surplus HEU to the U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC). This transfer will help expand the asset base of the government-owned USEC. When the corporation is privatized in the near future, additional revenues will accrue to the U.S. Treasury as a result of this transfer. The sale of LEU to other buyers is addressed in the USEC Privatization Act, which was recently signed into law. The sale of LEU derived from the surplus HEU will be carefully gauged to avoid adverse impacts on the domestic uranium fuel industry.
USEC, a global nuclear energy company, produces and markets uranium enrichment services to 64 utilities that own and operate commercial nuclear power plants in 14 countries, including the United States. Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., USEC manages gaseous diffusion plants in Paducah, Ky., and near Portsmouth, Ohio, and conducts Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation (AVLIS) development and demonstration activities in Livermore, Ca. USEC operations include approximately 5,000 people. USEC is a U.S. government corporation in the process of privatizing.
A summary of the HEU Final EIS and the Record of Decision are available through the Internet at http://web.fie.com/htdoc/fed/doe/fsl/pub/menu/any/. To request copies of the full HEU Final EIS, call 202/586-4513.
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