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Depleted UF6 Management Responsibilities

DOE has responsibility for safe and efficient management of approximately 700,000 metric tons of depleted UF6.

Organizational Responsibilities

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Energy is responsible for managing all the depleted uranium that has been generated by the government and has been declared surplus to national defense needs. In addition, as a result of two memoranda of agreement that have been signed between the DOE and USEC, the DOE has assumed management responsibility for approximately 145,000 metric tons of depleted UF6 that has been or will be generated by USEC. Any additional depleted UF6 that USEC generates will be USEC's responsibility to manage.

DOE Management Responsibility

In fiscal year 2001, the responsibility for the Uranium Program activities were transferred to the Office of Environmental Management (EM) from the Office of the Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology (NE). This program supports important government activities related to the Federal enrichment program that were not transferred to the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC Inc.). Under this program, major activities include management of highly enriched uranium; management of the facilities at the Paducah and Portsmouth sites; pre-existing liabilities; management of the Department's inventory of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) and other surplus uranium inventories; and oversight of the construction of two depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion facilities at Paducah and Portsmouth. The management of DOE's DUF6 inventory and the construction and operation of the two conversion facilities at Portsmouth and Paducah sites is currently the responsibility of the newly formed Portsmouth/Paducah Projects Office within DOE/EM.

DOE has responsibility for approximately 700,000 metric tons of depleted UF6. This inventory of depleted UF6 is stored in about 57,000 steel cylinders. This includes about 11,200 cylinders of material that has been or will be transferred to the Department of Energy from USEC Inc. (formerly United States Enrichment Corporation) under the two memoranda of agreement.

The characteristics of UF6 pose potential health and environmental risks. Depleted UF6 in cylinders emits low levels of gamma and neutron radiation. Also, when released to the atmosphere, depleted UF6 reacts with water vapor in the air to form hydrogen fluoride (HF) and uranyl fluoride (UO2F2), both chemically toxic substances. In light of such characteristics, the mission of the DOE's Depleted UF6 Management Program is to safely and efficiently manage the Department's inventory of depleted UF6 in a way that protects the health and safety of workers and the public, and protects the environment until the depleted UF6 is converted to a more stable chemical form and either used or disposed.