The United State Enrichment Corporation is at work shutting down its operations at Paducah’s Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The shutdown comes after losing a federal contract to continue uranium enrichment operations at the Department of Energy owned site.
The decommissioning of the plant includes the decontamination of equipment used to produce the fuel for nuclear power plants. USEC's Georgann Lookofsky explains part of the decontamination process.
"We actually close a series of valves which isolates that set of equipment from where the gas continues to circulate. Then we connect pumps which work almost like a vacuum. They’re going to pull out the uranium hexafluoride gas trapped inside the equipment when they close those valves."
Lookofsky says the equipment in the plant is grouped together in ‘cells’. When USEC received word of the pending shut down in May it was running approximately 173 cells. As June 17th only 58 cells were still to be decontaminated. Once the equipment is cleaned and operations cease the facility will be handed over to the Department of Energy.