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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Kirk, William S.
Uranium (depleted),   pp. 965-968 PDF (436.9 KB)


Page 965

  965Depleted Uranium 
By William S. Kirk1 
 Depleted uranium for nonenergy applications in the United States was a byproduct
of enriching natural uranium for nuclear applications by the Department of
Energy (DOE). The quantity that was available greatly exceeded current and
foreseeable demand. In both 1978 and 1979, depleted uranium metal and depleted
UF4, valued at about~ $20 million, was shipped by DOE primarily for use in
ordnance applications. Containers for spent nuclear reactor residues and
other radiation shielding applications, counterweights and ballast for aircraft
and ships, and research accounted for the remainder of consumption, which
was believed to be 10% to 20% of the total. All data in this chapter are
stated in terms of uranium content. 
Legislation and Government Pro- 
grams.—Depleted uranium, though only mildly radioactive, is treated
as a source material in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations and is referred
to in section 10 CFR 40.25 and 10 CFR 110.23 As a source material, ownership
and use of depleted uranium materials must be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission or certain State agencies.2 
 The Tokyo Round of negotiations was completed in 1979, resulting in new
tariff agreements for minerals, including depleted uranium, with the developed
nations of the world. The agreements placed most nations on a most-favored-nation
basis with generally lower rates to be phased in, or staged, between January
1, 1980, and January 1, 1987. 
DOMESTIC PRODUCTION 
 DOE was the sole domestic processor of uranium to produce a uranium product
that is enriched in the isotope uranium 235 (U235) for nuclear applications.
About 4.5 tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) is generated for each
ton of commercial powerreactor-grade enriched UF  produced. If a more enriched
product is required, such as for weapons use, a considerably larger quantity
of depleted uranium product is generated for each ton of the enriched product.
Depleted uranium is composed almost entirely of uranium 238 (U238) but still
contains small percentages of U235. 
 The DOE generated about 20,000 tons of depleted UF6 in 1978 and about 21,000
tons during 1979, bringing the total quantity of depleted uranium generated
by DOE to over 300,000 tons. 
 In September 1979, the Army awarded a 
$3 million contract to Nuclear Metals Inc. (NMI), Concord, Mass., to install
equipment that would give NMI the capability to produce 20,000 XM-774 105mm
depleted uranium penetrators per month. The capability would be available
for use in an emergency mobilization. Early in 1979, NMI acquired the capablilty
to reduce depleted uranium tetrafluoride (UF) to the metal. 
 TNS, a subsidiary of Aerojet Ordnance Co., doubled the floor space devoted
to processing depleted uranium, at Jonesboro, Tenn., during 1978 and 1979.
In 1979, TNS increased by 33% its capacity to reduce depleted UF4 to metal
and tripled its vacuum melting capacity. 
 Through the years, DOE has reduced some of the depleted UF6 to UF4 to release
valuable storage cylinders for other uses and to recover the fluorine. Most
of the 


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