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DOE seeks input from recyclers on radioactive nickel

DOE seeks input from recyclers on radioactive nickel
NEW YORK - The U.S. Department of Energy said last week it is discussing with metals processors ways to recycle 15,700 tons of nickel in Kentucky and Tennessee, contaminated by uranium and other radioactive elements over decades at U.S. enrichment plants.
Another 21,000 tons of shredded nickel scrap used as or stored near enrichment process equipment also could become available for recycling in the future, the DOE said. Use of the nickel, now stored near a gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, Ky. and at a facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., would be limited to radiological or nuclear applications, said DOE technician Richard Meehan. The 15,700 tons of nickel has a potential value of about $10 million, and contains traces of uranium, technetium, neptunium and plutonium. The 21,000 tonnes of nickel could become available as scrap from demolitions at Paducah, Oak Ridge, and a plant in Portsmouth, Ohio sometime down the road, according to the DOE. Meehan said several prospective contractors met Dec. 5 with the DOE to discuss ways of possibly reusing the nickel scrap \"in compliance with a 2001 federal policy prohibiting release of contaminated material into general commerce.\" Formal responses from any companies expressing interest in the nickel are expected late this month, he said. \"There are a bunch of companies out there that have metal processing capabilities that have radiological materials licenses, and several showed up at the meeting, but whether they are interested or not is another story,\" he said. Local news reports have said federal lawsuits allege that the nickel, mainly stored in a 25-acre scrap yard in Paducah, is highly radioactive and a poses a health threat to workers and the public. U.S. enrichment plants processed uranium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War, but in recent years mainly made it for nuclear power-plant fuel. The nickel\'s use now would be limited to radiological or nuclear applications where it would be subject to radioactive contamination anyway, Meehan added. \"Why take clean material and dirty it up when you can take material that is already contaminated and reuse that in a competent way? It conserves resources and keeps that material in a controlled setting. \"If somebody has a better idea than just throwing it away, that\'s what it amounts to,\" he added. Meehan said that possible uses for the contaminated base metal include steam generator replacements and nuclear piping. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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