Recycling Nickel Carbonyl Project Planned at Piketon

Preparations are underway at Piketon, Ohio, for a recycling project related to nickel carbonyl. Some of the material could originate from materials originally a part of the Huntington Pilot Plant and buried at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

The Laboratory Evaluation Plan was revealed October 17, 2013 and will occur at the Fluor-B&W Portsmouth.

Documentation states that the nickel feedstock will contain significant quantities of  TC 99 and U 235 previously exposed in carbonyl reactors . Department of Energy L to Q clearance for workers will be required. Nickel feedstock material to be deactivated will remain classified as Confidential RD (C-RD).  Feedstock nickel was removed from PGDP equipment that has been dismantled.  Purified nickel and unreacted residual material will be treated as C-RD until it is determined that the classified features no longer exist. Although the laboratory testings are to be done in Portsmouth, they resemble the process that took place at the Huntington plant that existed during the Cold War (1951-1979).

Documents recently obtained via FOIA from the Department of Energy revealed that in the last 70s, the Atomic Energy Commission Reduction Pilot (Huntington Pilot) Plant on the venue of International Nickel was demolished to remove contaminated nickel, nickel carbonyl and Uranium 235 and 238. Those contaminated debris were buried at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio.

Deemed safe at the time, Congress ten years later passed a bill that compensated certain workers at atomic energy plants.

The AEC work at Huntington consisted of processing scrap nickel to produce refined nickel powder for use in the gaseous diffusion barriers for gaseous diffusion plants. The feedstock for the nickel powder was uranium contaminated nickel that originated from the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (ORGDP). (February 2005, Report to the Advisory Board on Radiation Worker Health, Case Audit (PIID) from HPP, name removed).

What happened to the materials from ORGDP?

The contaminated nickel scrap metal was offloaded by rail at Huntington , where the nickel was loaded into a furnace , and melt refined, and in the process, the uranium contamination was separated from the nickel through a special step in the process involving the application of carbon monoxide, referred to as the nickel carbonyl process.

Following melting and the carbonyl separation process, the separated uranium was decanted into container (cylinders) referred to as "birdcages," which contained no more than 350 grams of U-235 to avoid criticality.

(According to legacy documents from 1950-1961, 2,587,000 pounds of nickel were shipped from ORGDP to INCO. This starting material contained 11.428 pCi U/mg Ni.)

What was in Contaminated Nickel Feedstock?

Radioactivity in the gaseous diffusion plants consists of U-234, U-235, and U-238 and Tc 99 with trace quantities of Np 237 and Pu-239. This contamination was introduced introduced into the plants from plutonium reactors at Hanford and Savanah River.  88% of the reprocessed uranium was shipped to and introduced into the uranium enrichment facilities at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant  and 12% at the K-25 site in Oak Ridge.

What's happening  in Piketon?

  1. Carbonyl Project (796.69 KB)
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