The Port Hope conversion facility receives tote bins containing high-purity uranium from Cameco's refinery at Blind River. Each bin contains 9.5 tonnes of uranium in the form of UO3. Most of the UO3 received in Port Hope is converted to UF6 in a multi-step process. The remainder is converted to UO2.
The UF6 process includes the following steps:
- reduction -- UO3 is pulverized to a fine powder, then reacted with hydrogen gas to create UO2
- hydrofluorination -- UO2 is reacted with hydrofluoric acid to convert the UO2 to UF4, which is then calcined to remove water
- fluorination -- the calcined UF4 powder is reacted with fluorine gas to produce UF6 gas. This gas is passed through filters, then solidified in "cold traps" in order to collect the UF6 in a crystallized form. After the cold traps are filled, the UF6 is liquified by heating and drained into specially designed steel shipping cylinders.
Cameco uses both 10- and 14-tonne cylinders which are transported by truck and/or boat to enrichment plants in the United States, Japan and Europe. A single 14-tonne cylinder of UF6 has the energy equivalent of 900,000 barrels of oil.
The UO2 process includes the following steps:
- digestion -- UO3 is dissolved in nitric acid to produce uranyl nitrate
- precipitation -- aqueous ammonia is added to uranyl nitrate to precipitate ammonium diuranate (ADU), which is then dewatered in a centrifuge
- drying -- ADU cake is dried in a dryer
- reduction -- dry ADU cake is reacted with hydrogen in gas-fired rotary kilns to produce UO2
Innovation and Technology Development
Laboratories provide technical assistance to Cameco's fuel services operations to enhance production activities, competitiveness and environmental viability. More than 20 scientists and technicians are employed in technology development. In 2007 Cameco signed a research agreement with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology that established the Cameco chair in nuclear fuel. The University and Cameco will share expertise and equipment under the partnership to develop new technologies related to production of nuclear fuels.
PORT HOPE CONVERSION FACILITY
Cameco uses both 10- and...
|Larger Photos||(2 photos)|