Workers recently removed the last of the original 1,376 centrifuge machines that were used for a short time in the mid-1980s by the Department of Energy.
The DOE leases the plant to the United States Enrichment Corp., and plans to begin a new way of enriching uranium at the plant by 2009.
“This project was very challenging because we were doing something that had never been done before - removing and disassembling centrifuge machines on a large scale,” USEC Director of Program Management and Strategic Planning Larry Cutlip said.
USEC, Inc., which is operating the new American Centrifuge program, needed the machines removed so it could install a lead cascade to test the new enrichment process, according to American Centrifuge Public Affairs Manager Angie Duduit.
The testing process is scheduled to begin later this summer, she said.
The machines were shipped to Nevada for disposal by LATA/Parallax. That company is in charge of cleanup activities at the plant.
Besides the machines, the 44-member work crew also got rid of 240,000 cubic feet of surplus and waste material from the building.
The waste included piping and electronic components.
One of the major obstacles to the job was using overhead cranes that had been shut down for 20 years. Technicians had to refurbish the computer software that operated the cranes before using them.
In other USEC news, the U.S. International Trade Commission refused by a 4-1 vote to end the anti-dumping suspension agreement that limits Russian uranium imports to melted-down warheads through the Megatons to Megawatts program.
“Before the anti-dumping agreement, the Russians were selling enriched uranium at below-market prices,” USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle said. “If they were allowed to dump at a low price, it would hurt USEC and other Western suppliers.”
Stuckle said the ITC reviews the anti-dumping agreement every five years.
“Apparently they thought if the agreement was lifted, the Russians would begin dumping again,” she said.
On May 31, the Department of Commerce said the dumping would resume if the agreement was lifted.