Sustainability is integral to everything Urenco does, including our efficient use of natural uranium in our enrichment services and our responsible management of the by-product, depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6), or tails, as it is commonly known.
During the enrichment process, the concentration of the U235 isotope in natural uranium is increased from 0.71% to approximately 3-5%. The depleted fraction usually still contains about 20-30% of the initial concentration of U235 and this resource can be re-enriched, which is a common industry practice.
This practice actively promotes the conservation of resources and Urenco will take this approach whenever it is commercially viable to do so, as it is in current market conditions. All transactions with partners are subject to strict non-proliferation regimes based on international standards of security and safeguards.
When it is not commercially viable to re-enrich tails, we store it safely and securely ourselves or with our partners, for enrichment at a future date or deconversion.
Deconversion involves converting tails to uranium oxide (U3O8) for longer term storage pending reuse or final disposal. Urenco has invested in a multi-million pound Tails Management Facility in the UK, run by our subsidiary Urenco ChemPlants, to handle the deconversion process and it currently serves our European sites.
More information about Urenco’s commitment to sustainability, including the responsible management of nuclear materials, can be found in our Sustainability Report.