Are there any uses for depleted uranium?
Several current and potential uses exist for depleted uranium. Depleted uranium could be mixed with highly enriched uranium from retired nuclear weapons to produce nuclear reactor fuel. This process is called blending, and, to date, only natural or slightly enriched uranium has been considered for this application. Depleted uranium is currently used for radiation shielding. Such uses can be expected in the future, and there are other potential uses as counterweights on forklifts and as flywheels. Military applications of depleted uranium include use as tank armor, armor-piercing projectiles (antitank weapons), and counterweights in missiles.
Use of depleted uranium in advanced reactor fuel cycles, most notably in a future generation of fast breeder reactors, was one of DOE's original reasons for continuing to store the material. In advanced reactor fuel cycles, the depleted uranium inventory could represent hundreds of years of electrical power at the current U.S. consumption rate. Implementation of an advanced reactor fuel cycle would require a change in national policy. The United States now uses a once-through fuel cycle derived from natural uranium.
DOE has also supported efforts to develop new uses for depleted uranium and has issued a draft DUF6 Materials Use Roadmap. The Roadmap is intended to be used to guide any future research and development (R&D) activities for the materials associated with its depleted uranium hexafluoride inventory.
Other work supported by DOE and related to finding beneficial uses for depleted uranium in various chemical forms in discussed under the DU Uses section of this website.
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