Mid-America Conversion Services (MCS) has received approval from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to commence operation of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) conversion plants in the US.

MCS is a joint venture (JV) of Atkins, US-based engineering and construction company Fluor, and manufacturing firm Westinghouse. It signed a five-year contract to carry out the operation, with facilities located in Kentucky and Ohio.

Under the terms of the deal, the company will also have to manage the cylinder-storage yards at the DOE’s Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (GDP) site in Ohio and Paducah GDP Site in Kentucky.

Portsmouth GDP was built to generate enriched uranium to support the country’s nuclear weapons programme and the US Navy. The GDP facility was also used to produce enriched uranium to be used by commercial nuclear reactors in the country.

"Their core value is safety and we are looking forward to working together very closely."

MCS' president and project manager Alan Parker said: “During the 90 days of transition, I have come to know this incredible project team.

“Their core value is safety and we are looking forward to working together very closely.”

As part of the contract, the company will operate DUF6 conversion facilities, offer maintenance services for conversion facilities and associated equipment, dispose of end products, and conduct surveillance and maintenance of the cylinder storage yards.

The nearly 700,000t DOE inventory of depleted uranium hexafluoride is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process at both the Portsmouth and Paducah gaseous diffusion facilities, which ceased production operations in 2001 and 2013, respectively.

The DUF6 plants convert the uranium hexafluoride to depleted uranium oxide so it can be beneficial for reuse or disposal, as well as to aqueous hydrofluoric acid (HF) for industrial use.