Scrap and Contaminated Metals Recycling

Economic Analysis of Nickel Release Project


There is an estimated 9,000 tons of radioactively contaminated nickel in the form of ingots stored at the current and former uranium enrichment plants in Paducah, KY, Portsmouth, OH, and Oak Ridge, TN.  Nickel has a particularly high scrap value, but a moratorium by the DOE on commercial reuse of any radioactively contaminated metals prevents its sale.  Disposal costs would be quite high, and result in the loss of the material as a valuable resource. This project would lead to the establishment and validation of a process whereby the nickel can be made as clean as or cleaner than conventional commercial nickel relative to radioactive contaminants.  There are two portions of this proposal.


  1. Develop a technology to remove radionuclide contaminants from existing U.S. Department of Energy stockpiles of nickel ingots.
  2. Apply the developed technology to purify the contaminated nickel inventory in Paducah.


  1. Provide a summary (and timeline) of the history of the issues with regard to the release of the nickel. Information in this summary and timeline should include:
    1. Amount of nickel
    2. Use
    3. Types of Contamination
    4. Release Standards
    5. Moratorium
    6. Efforts by PACRO
    7. Claims and Efforts by CVDR
    8. Other
  2. The principal investigator (PI) will report on the possible economic paths forward for the nickel at Paducah (what is the potential economic benefit to Paducah with each of these scenarios)? This analysis will be incorporated into a course in engineering economics (CME455 Process Design 1) where the students will develop tools to perform this analysis based on variable assumptions. The result of incorporating this analysis into this course and its contribution to meeting educational objectives for the course will be reported at the ASEE Annual Meeting in 2006.

    Expected Scenarios:
    1. No release
    2. DOD comes in and takes the nickel and uses it in their complex
    3. DOD comes in and cleans it up some (e.g. CVDR) and uses it with DOD
    4. DOD allows the nickel to be cleaned by a third party and released to the public
    5. other
  3. Perform an analysis of the following issues and constraints surrounding the nickel release.
    1. Technical (How clean does it have to be? What are the technical challenges with that level? What type of verification process would be required to "prove" the nickel could be cleaned to that level? How many samples would be necessary to demonstrate the feasibility of the process, etc.)
    2. Regulatory (What current regulations are relevant to the cleanup of the nickel and the facilities required to clean the nickel, e.g. facility permitting, etc.)
    3. Political (Why was the moratorium imposed, what would be required for it to be lifted, what is the position of the nickel industry, the nickel industry unions, the general public? What specific barriers exist with each group? What would be necessary to eliminate those barriers?)
  4. Provide recommendations for dealing with the above barriers. A report will be delivered at the end of the project, approximately June 30, 2006. Interim progress reports will be delivered as requested.

Project 9: Purification and Recovery of Radiologically Contaminated Metals

Document TitleDescriptionYear
Separation of Nickel from TechnetiumProject Report2004
Nickel-Technetium Separation by Metal Distillation and Vapor Deposition PACRO PresentationPresentation to Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization (PACRO)2004
Separation of Nickel from Technetium-Contaminated ScrapPresentation to the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization (PACRO)2007
Metal Separation Technologies Expression of InterestResponse to Expression of Interest Request2007


Project Manager
Steve Hampson, Associate Director/Co-Principal Investigator, University of Kentucky, Kentucky Research Consortium for Energy & Environment
Principal Investigators
David Silverstein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky Paducah Engineering Program