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DOE ANNOUNCES END TO REPROCESSING FOR HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM

 DOE ANNOUNCES END TO REPROCESSING FOR HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM
 WASHINGTON, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- In a move which will result in an immediate $84 million savings, Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins today announced his decision to phase out the reprocessing of spent fuel by the Department of Energy (DOE) as soon as possible. Watkins immediately submitted this item as part of a comprehensive amendment request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the department's FY 1993 budget.
 "The ability of the United States to make this decision was based on the dramatic initiatives by President Bush to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile. With the president's initiative, the end of the cold war, and the fall of communism in the world, the United States no longer has the need to reprocess spent fuel to recover highly enriched uranium (HEU)," Watkins said.
 Watkins explained that enough HEU exists in inventory and can be recycled from retired weapons to meet the U.S. projected needs for decades. Therefore, the reprocessing activities can be phased out and plans can be developed to transition the plants for eventual decontamination and decommissioning.
 "One added advantage to this decision is that the amount of waste destined for disposal in a geologic repository should be around nine times less than the volume generated by reprocessing the spent fuel," Watkins said.
 (In nature, uranium contains approximately 99 percent U-238 and less than 1 percent U-235. In the enrichment process, the relative amount of U-235 is increased to 3 to 5 percent for use in power reactors (low enriched uranium), and for greater than 90 percent for defense needs (highly enriched uranium).)
 As with other "peace dividends," this one does not come without a price, Watkins said. Ending the reprocessing of spent fuel will result in a change in employment levels at the Idaho and Savannah River facilities. The employment impacts at Idaho will mean the loss of approximately 500 construction project jobs and 550 operating jobs at the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant (ICPP) by the end of FY 1993.
 The reductions at the Savannah River Site's H-Canyon reprocessing plant will occur over a five to six year period of time. No immediate impact is expected. This will allow the plant to finish processing work required to support the fuel needs for a scheduled National Aeronautics and Space Administration mission and to stabilize liquid solutions currently stored in the H-Canyon.
 "We will do everything possible to help the workers affected by this decision," Watkins stated. "These men and women have been an important part of our nation's defense and have made a major contribution to this country."
 Watkins hopes to place as many of the affected employees as possible in available job openings at the Idaho and Savannah River sites where their basic skills and work experiences match existing needs. The department anticipates that at most DOE facilities the environmental restoration and waste management mission will steadily increase. Various DOE sites are currently identifying the skill mix necessary for an orderly transition to the expanded environmental restoration and waste management mission. Watkins reiterated that DOE will retrain and use the existing work force to carry out this new mission as much as possible.
 -0- 4/29/92
 /CONTACT: Deborah K. Smith of the U.S. Department of Energy, 202-586-4940/ CO: U.S. Department of Energy ST: District of Columbia IN: OIL SU:


DC -- DC031 -- 4533 04/29/92 15:55 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 29, 1992
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