Nuclear Material Recovery

Miscellaneous scrap material is a diverse group of scrap materials generated from reactor fuel production, weapons production, research and development activities and other uses by the U.S. Department of Energy. The majority of this material will require additional processing before it is down blended for low-enriched uranium reactor fuel. This group also has the least amount of characterization data associated with it. It will primarily be processed through DOE’s Central Scrap Management Office before being dispositioned.

DOE is aware of the potential the highly enriched uranium material has to affect the commercial uranium market in the United States. For that reason the program work is spread out over many years. Before any material can reach the commercial market, the Secretary of Energy must determine that its sale would not cause a significant disruption in the U.S. uranium market.

National Security Programs’ Off-Specification Fuel Program works in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Blended Low Enriched Uranium Program to make surplus HEU nonweapons-usable by down blending it to low-enriched uranium. LEU is then used for reactor fuel, thus recovering the economic value of the material.

Because of this partnership, Y‑12 and other DOE sites store significantly less legacy material; the U.S. stockpile of weapons-usable fissile material is reduced; costs to U.S. taxpayers are cut through reduced storage, security and disposal of the material and East Tennessee employs approximately 200 skilled workers.

Securing nuclear material — domestically and internationally — is one part of Y‑12’s nuclear nonproliferation business. We manage programs that actually remove surplus highly enriched uranium from the stored, secured inventory on site. This is in line with the United States’ commitment to reduce potential nuclear proliferation by reducing the amount of stored weapons-usable material that is in excess of national security needs.

We have taken material left from the Cold War and given it an important, peaceful use — energy.