Radioactive Background Quantities in Commercial Nickel Metal

  • Murphy, William (PI)
  • Smart, Jimmy (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Radioactive Background Quantities in Commercial Nickel Metal Project Summary The uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky is the only facility in the U. S. that still enriches uranium for the nuclear power industry. Over the course of its 50 years of operation, there has accumulated 9700 tons of nickel from various process upgrades. This material is in the form of ingots and is radioactively contaminated from its exposure to the uranium enrichment process. Under Department of Energy decree, this material cannot be used under any circumstances, and so represents a hazardous waste material that would have to be disposed of before the plant site can be reclaimed for other uses after the enrichment operation ceases. There are methods that can be implemented to remove a significant portion of the radioactive contamination. However, it may not be economically possible to removed all of the radioactivity from the nickel. There will be a certain amount of radioactivity present in almost all materials after the nuclear weapons tests of the 1940s and 50s. The threshold for cleaning the nickel for recycling should not necessarily be removal of all the radioactive elements, but removal only to the level that currently exists in commercial grade nickel. Commercial nickel is not currently inspected for radioactive contamination, so the amount of radiation that would be present is unknown. Tests for radioactive elements in nickel taken from three different commercially available sources will be performed to establish a target for baseline purity in the commercial marketplace. This baseline may then become the practical minimum standard of performance which any nickel processor must meet or exceed. The three samples will be divided into workable quantities for radiation testing by the U. S. Enrichment Corporation laboratory as well as the Kentucky Radiation Control Lab in Frankfort, KY. The University of Kentucky will oversee the chain of custody for the nickel test specimens, as well as coordinate the testing protocol that the two labs will use for the radiation tests. UK personnel will lead the effort to publish the results of these tests in an appropriate venue. Additional efforts may be required by UK personnel as this project gets underway. Private companies are interested in demonstrating their expertise in purifying the contaminated nickel. UK faculty members will make their expertise available to the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization (PACRO) to provide unbiased evaluation of performance claims and purification procedures. Such efforts may require travel to other laboratory sites, or preliminary testing with existing equipment located on the UK Lexington campus.
Effective start/end date7/1/036/15/04


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