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What are the potential environmental impacts from conversion of depleted uranium hexafluoride to other forms?

In addition to human health and safety consequences, the PEIS evaluated the potential consequences of various depleted uranium management strategies on air quality, water and soil quality, socioeconomics (that is, economic and social conditions), ecology, waste management, resource requirements, and land use. Conversion of the depleted uranium inventory could result in adverse impacts to air, water, and soil quality as a result of the construction of conversion facilities. A conversion facility would require about 40 acres of land area. Potential air quality impacts would be from particulate matter generated during construction; such impacts could be controlled by good construction practices. Also, construction activities have the potential to result in surface water, groundwater, or soil contamination through spills of construction chemicals. However, by following good engineering practices, concentrations in soil and wastewater (and therefore surface water and groundwater) could be kept well within applicable standards or guidelines.

Conversion would entail removal of the fluorine component of the inventory. It is possible that HF would be produced and sold for use, thus avoiding a waste management problem. However, if an option involving CaF2 or MgF2 production was selected, it is currently unknown whether the product generated could be sold, disposed of as nonhazardous solid waste, or whether disposal as LLW would be required. The low level of uranium contamination expected for CaF2 (i.e., less than 1 ppm) suggests that sale or disposal as nonhazardous solid waste would be most likely. It is more likely that MgF2 would require disposal as LLW. If the CaF2 and MgF2 were both considered to be LLW, the largest generation volumes (about 550,000 m3) would represent about a 13% addition to the projected DOE complex-wide LLW disposal volume, and could result in a moderate adverse impact on DOE's waste management system as a whole.

Any conversion options would involve emptying the cylinders currently containing the depleted UF6. The empty cylinders would be treated to remove the residual materials and crushed. It is assumed that the treated, crushed cylinders would become part of the DOE scrap metal inventory. If a decision to dispose of the crushed cylinders were made, the treated cylinders would be disposed of as LLW, representing a 4% addition to the projected DOE complex-wide LLW disposal volume. This would constitute a low impact on DOE's waste management system as a whole.

No other adverse impacts were identified for the areas evaluated. Socioeconomic impacts are evaluated in terms of jobs and income generated, which are considered positive impacts. Conversion was estimated to result in from 330 to 500 direct jobs and in the generation of from $20 to $28 million in direct income per operational year.

(For more details on the environmental risks from conversion, see also Section 2.4 and Appendix F of the PEIS.)

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