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Huge refrigerant removal operation continues at US nuclear plant

USA: An amount of refrigerant with a CO2 equivalence virtually equal to half of Europe’s entire 2023 F-gas allowance continues to be removed from a former US uranium enrichment plant. 

The refrigerant, R114, an ozone depleting CFC, with a massive GWP of 10,000, was used to control temperatures at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah, Kentucky.

Owned by the US Department of Energy, the facility was constructed in 1952 to produce enriched uranium, initially for the nation’s nuclear weapons programme and later for nuclear fuel for commercial power plants. It was the last government-owned uranium enrichment facility operating in the United States when work ceased in 2013.

An estimated 8.5 million lb of R114 (approx 3,856 tonnes, equivalent to 38.56MtCO2e) were originally contained at the site. After a further 1 million lb (456 tonnes) were recovered this year, over half the R114 has now been removed for safe destruction since the project began in 2020.

A further 1 million lb, filling over one hundred ISO containers, is planned to be shipped for off-site treatment next year.

“For the third year, Paducah Site has risen to this million-mark challenge. Removing the R114 from the Paducah Site will significantly reduce this legacy hazard,” project office manager Joel Bradburne said. 

The R114 removal project is led by deactivation and remediation contractor Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership.

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