USA: The US Environmental Protection Agency is set to complete the removal of over 340 tonnes of the CFC refrigerant R114 from a uranium enrichment site in Paducah, Kentucky.
The ozone-depleting refrigerant, although banned under the Montreal Protocol, is still allowed for certain “special applications”, which has included its use in centrifugal chillers in US Navy submarines. At the Paducah plant R114 was used to cool equipment in the uranium enrichment process.
Built in 1952, the Paducah plant produced low-enriched uranium, originally as feedstock for military reactors, weapons and later for nuclear power fuel. It ceased operation in 2013.
A medium pressure refrigerant, R114 was originally used in preference to another CFC, R11. In addition to being ozone depleting, it also possesses a huge GWP of 8,590. Its removal totals 3MtCO2e.
Removal of the refrigerant has begun and was due to be completed by the end of this year. The reprocessing/destruction of the refrigerant is being carried out at a number of locations in the USA. These include sites operated by A-Gas, Heritage Thermal Services, Chill-Tek, Hudson Technologies and Veolia, as well as the Clean Harbors Aragonite incineration facility.