During Urenco’s enrichment process, depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6), also known as tails, is made as a by-product. Tails still contain a low concentration of uranium235 and can be re-enriched if economically viable.
We store tails at our enrichment facilities in internationally approved containers pending further re-enrichment or deconversion to a chemically stable form, uranium oxide (U3O8), for long term storage until final disposal.
In 2010, Urenco received regulatory and planning approval to build a Tails Management Facility (TMF) at our Capenhurst site. Once operational, it will be responsible for the deconversion of UF6 to U3O8.
Commissioning has commenced and operations are planned to start in 2020. We are proud of the fact that during the construction and commissioning of the TMF, we have so far achieved more than 7 million hours of safe working. The TMF is one of the safest construction sites in the UK.
Deconversion of UF6 is achieved by reacting gaseous UF6 with steam to produce uranyl fluoride (UO2F2). The UO2F2 is further reacted with steam and hydrogen to produce U3O8 powder and hydrogen fluoride (HF) vapour. All reactions take place within specially designed units.
The resultant U3O8 powder is packed into containers for long term storage. The gaseous HF is cooled and liquefied as hydrofluoric acid, which is then sold to our customer. Hydrofluoric acid is extensively used for cleaning stainless steel, etching glass, removing oxide impurities from metals and the purification of quartz. It is also used in the production of refrigerants.
All our activities are scrutinised and regulated by the Office of Nuclear Regulation, Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.
We readily acknowledge our responsibility for the safe stewardship of uranium. Through our TMF, we can responsibly manage the by-product of our enrichment services, which is crucial to our commitment to nuclear stewardship and sustainability.
Urenco has another subsidiary, Urenco Nuclear Stewardship, also dedicated to responsible nuclear stewardship. Find out more here.