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Uranium Refinement Moves Forward In Tennessee

By Lorelei Goff

Local groups continue to oppose uranium refinement as an Erwin, Tennessee, nuclear fuel plant is cited for additional violations.

Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., a subsidiary of BWX Technologies, Inc., received $428 million in April from the National Nuclear Security Administration for phase two of a five-year contract to produce highly enriched uranium metal at its Erwin plant. NFS also produces fuel for nuclear reactors used in U.S. submarines and aircraft carriers.

The purified metal will be stored at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Uranium metal is used for nuclear power reactors, medical applications and weapons.

The company received $57 million for phase one in 2021. The new process required a license amendment, which is expected to be finalized later in 2023.

Erwin Citizens Awareness Network filed a petition for a hearing to halt the amendment in 2022, citing safety and environmental concerns and a long history of violations at NFS. The appeal was rejected in January. ECAN filed an appeal and an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board reviewing it as of July.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued two additional low-level violations to Nuclear Fuel Services in the areas of instructions, procedures, and drawings and internal audits in June.

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