The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, December 05, 2002

Nickel disposal meeting called
U.S. Department of Energy officials wants to recycle 6 1/2 tons of slightly radioactive metal but wants suggestions how to do it.

By Bill Bartleman

Representatives of at least five firms will meet with U.S. Department of Energy officials Thursday to discuss proposals for recycling more than 13,000 tons of scrap nickel, most of which is stored at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

It is DOE's latest effort to find a use for the nickel that was once used in production equipment at enrichment plants in Paducah; Piketon, Ohio; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. The nickel, which has a low level of radioactive contamination, has a potential value of more than $10 million.

The proposals will be limited to use in government or commercial nuclear industry because of a 1999 ban imposed by the Clinton administration prohibiting the metal's use in consumer products.

The ban was imposed after environmental and health groups expressed concern that recycling the nickel for use in consumer products would cause a health risk. Supporters of recycling, however, say the contamination levels are below federal standards and don't pose a health threat.

"If the ideas we receive on Thursday look promising, we'll draft a request for proposals and invite firms to submit formal bids for the recycling," said Rich Meehan, team leader of DOE's facility reuse operation in Oak Ridge. He said the request should be out by February.

The firms were not identified.

In the request for solicitations, DOE said it is "particularly interested in concepts that would result in beneficial impacts to local communities at Paducah, Portsmouth and Oak Ridge."

The benefit would be in the form of jobs created at a recycling facility.

Meehan said it is too early to predict whether recycling plants would be built at all three sites, one site or at another location. "We'll have to wait and see what is in the proposals we receive," Meehan said.

Paducah has 9,600 tons of nickel ingots in storage, and Oak Ridge has 3,600 tons of shredded nickel. There is none stored in Piketon.

DOE officials estimate that 21,000 more tons of scrap nickel will be generated as plants are decommissioned at the three sites during the next 25 years.

A recycling plant could employ 50 or more people, according to previous estimates.