OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - A U.S. Department of Energy official says stocks of radioactive uranium could start shipping from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to Nevada in 2013.
However, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that agency officials will not discuss exact dates of the shipments because of safety and security reasons because of the fissionable material's potential use in nuclear weapons.
DOE's Environmental Manager Mark Whitney said in an interview with the newspaper this fall that the DOE wanted to start the shipments to the Nevada National Security site in early 2013 pending approvals to ship.
The agency released another statement saying that all approvals for shipment were not yet in place, but they expected approval soon.
The shipments are part of a program to dispose of a stockpile of old reactor fuel called the Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Project that has been housed at Oak Ridge for decades.
The 1980s project processed the radioactive materials for storage and there are 403 canisters contained about 2.6 kilograms of uranium in each. The radiation at the exterior of the canisters is about 300 rads per hour, which categorizes it as a high-hazard level.
The energy department said a container sleeve acts as a shield and has reduced the radiation field by about half.
Whitney did not agree with an analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies released earlier this year criticizing the plans to disposal of the materials, which suggested the agency would have to waive its own rules in order to bury the materials in the Nevada desert landfill.
The containers would be buried at a depth greater than 40 feet, under another layer of radioactive waste. Whitney said because of the material's form and location, it would be very difficult for anyone to gain access or do anything with it.