Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride

Over the past several months, there has been alarm in Russia about the import of depleted uranium, a possibly dangerous substance that some regard as radioactive waste. Bellona’s Alexander Nikitin, who heads our St Petersburg office, has since helmed a working group with nuclear officials aimed at keeping this process transparent for a nervous public.

The Russian government had long ago discontinued the imports, so their resumption, under terms that were less than public, took many, Bellona included, by surprise.

At issue was the revelation late last year that Techsnabexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, had contracted to import depleted uranium hexafluoride from Urenco, a German-based nuclear fuel conglomerate. Rosatom had ceased the imports in 2009 after widespread environmental outcry over the conditions of its storage in Siberia, which was often in the open air.

Depleted uranium hexafluoride, is a colorless radioactive powder that is produced as a byproduct of enriching uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants. Many in the nuclear industry, Rosatom included, say that the compound is a useful raw material that can be applied in fuel enrichment. Numerous environmental groups, however, contend that transporting the substance is hazardous, and say that it should be stored as waste rather than reprocessed for further use.

In an effort to answer that question – and to be transparent about the answers – Rosatom formed a working group of environmentalists and appointed Nikitin as its head. This report is a benchmark in that work, and endeavors to explain the history and purpose of depleted uranium hexafluoride imports, and Rosatom’s efforts to the imports in a safe and public manner.

Click here to view the report: Depleted Uranium Hexafluoride

Authors: Alexander Nikitin, Oleg Muratov, Ksenia Vakhrusheva
Publisher: Bellona Foundation