Experts have proven the legality of the processing of depleted uranium in Russia
Depleted uranium hexafluoride (ollu) does not apply to radioactive waste, and is a valuable raw material necessary for the development of not only nuclear energy but also other industries, its processing in Russia is legal, safe, and expedient – such evidential conclusion is contained in the joint report of the Commission on ecology of the Public Council of Rosatom state Corporation, environmental and legal center "Bellona".
The presentation took place on Wednesday via videoconference. The report is available at the disposal of RIA Novosti.
Natural uranium consists mostly of the isotope uranium-238 (about 99.3 percent) and uranium-235 (about 0.7%). The uranium fuel, enriched in uranium-235 to a few percent, is now working the vast majority of power reactors in the world. The result of the enrichment of uranium in u-235 are formed of enriched uranium product (supplied in the production of nuclear fuel) and depleted uranium hexafluoride. OGPU poses no radiation hazard because of its radioactivity is less than natural uranium.
At the end of October 2019 in the media there is information about transportation from Germany to Russia OGPU owned by the European consortium Urenco, as part of a deal with the company "Rosatom", JSC "Techsnabexport". The environmental organizations raised the question of how safe secured appeal OGPU at the enterprises of atomic industry of the Russian Federation.
Rosatom then explained in detail that imported to Russia from Europe, depleted uranium hexafluoride is radioactive waste, resulting in the enrichment of this substance in Russia remains strategically important raw materials for nuclear energy, this reduces the risk of underutilization of capacities of domestic enterprises. The Corporation has also arranged technical tours members of the public, including environmentalists, their facilities for handling OGPU.
"One of the reasons for the increased interest and concern of people was the lack of public, objective and timely information and knowledge about the technologies use OGPU. The treatment of OGPU became the subject of consideration at the highest level in the nuclear Department and in the regions of presence of enterprises in which it is stored or processed OGPU", - the report says.
In the Commission on ecology of the Public Council of Rosatom has established a working group, which invited representatives of environmental organizations such as the Russian branch of "Greenpeace", "Bellona", "Russian Socio-ecological Union", "Citizen", "research Institute of ecology" and others, as well as representatives of educational and scientific institutions and organizations of "Rosatom". The decision was taken by experts of these organisations to prepare a briefing report on the handling of OGPU.
In the report special attention is paid to the status of depleted uranium hexafluoride, as this issue has become a "stumbling block" between the opponents of the use of foreign OGPU at the enterprises of Russia and those who believe that technology use OGPU are perfectly acceptable in terms of safety and legality.
"The main question that is constantly discussed in the media and among the public: what is OGPU – raw materials or radioactive waste? To get an answer is crucial, because if ollu is radioactive waste, the question arises about the legality of the importation of OGPU from abroad to Russia", - stated in the report.
According to the Federal law "On nuclear energy use" of radioactive waste are "not subject to further use of materials and substances ... the content of radionuclides exceeding the levels set in accordance with the criteria established by the government of the Russian Federation", recalled in the report.
Thus, it is necessary to find out whether the further use of depleted uranium hexafluoride or not, the report notes.
"Figuring out the status of OGPU, it is necessary to take into account the conclusions of IAEA experts, according to which ollu is not radioactive waste, and is seen as a useful energy resource, an additional source of uranium and fluorine", - the authors of the report.
"Ollu is nuclear material. Due to the high efficiency of the modern Russian gas centrifuge enrichment technology equivalent of natural uranium of various grades produced from the separation OGPU on the Russian enterprises, has an attractive cost in comparison with the world price of natural uranium and is therefore used in the manufacture of fuel for nuclear power plants", - stated in the report.
The authors remind us that Russia is now implementing a program of transition to the so-called closed nuclear fuel cycle with the use of power reactors on fast neutrons. In this loop, as it is expected, will create a "cycle" of nuclear fuel. The result is due to the expanded reproduction of nuclear "fuel" will significantly increase the fuel base of nuclear energy, and will also be able to reduce the volume of radioactive waste due to the "burning" of dangerous radionuclides.
In Russia on the power unit No. 4 of Beloyarsk NPP operates the reactor on fast neutrons bn-800. It began the practical demonstration of the use of depleted uranium in the so-called mixed oxide uranium-plutonium MOX fuel.
"Depleted uranium is increased in comparison with the natural content of the isotope uranium-238 is the raw material for nuclear power reactors on fast neutrons. Thus, ollu is regarded as a strategic reserve for the existing nuclear energy ... and also for a closed nuclear fuel cycle, if it is implemented," - said in the report.
In addition, ollu is a valuable source of fluoride, which can be used not only in nuclear energy – in fact for the production of uranium hexafluoride, but also in other, non-nuclear industries – for example, in the production of ozone-safe coolants, for etching printed circuit boards and chips, as alloying additives in the creation of high-strength steels. Widespread use of fluoride finds in the pharmaceutical industry for the synthesis of various medicines and cosmetics, the report notes. "So recycling OGPU is commercial interest," the document says.
All this suggests that "depleted uranium hexafluoride used in many fields of Russian industry as a useful resource that, according to the above mentioned normative legal acts, excludes it from the category of radioactive wastes", the report said.
"Such a classification allows ollu today to sign contracts between companies to import as raw material, including on the import of OGPU on the territory of Russia", - the authors of the report.
A separate part of the report is devoted to the substantiation of safety of depleted uranium hexafluoride to Russia. As noted in the document, OGPU in Russia is stored in containers that are resistant to extreme mechanical influences, high temperature and corrosion. In addition, carried out technical maintenance of the territory in which is stored OGPU, inventory control.