Usec has bought the former Boeing site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for $5 million. The company is making more than $50 million in improvements to the 30 hectare site, which will now be known as the American Centrifuge Technology and Manufacturing Center.
The site, whose assessed value was $13 million, includes a building with a high bay structure that was specifically built for manufacturing, balancing and testing centrifuge machines in support of the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) gas centrifuge enrichment programme in the 1980s.
Boeing decided to move its commercial aircraft parts fabrication and assembly operations from Oak Ridge to its other sites. Boeing Oak Ridge had been procuring, manufacturing and assembling machine components for Usec's American Centrifuge Demonstration Facility in Piketon, Ohio, since late 2004.
In mid-2007, Usec hired BWX Technologies (BWXT) to take over centrifuge machine manufacturing, balancing and testing work from Boeing. Since then, Usec said it has been making significant building improvements such as upgrading electrical systems and installing foundations for new production machining equipment, robotics, computer control and testing systems to support the current manufacturing ramp-up in centrifuge parts production.
Usec said that it received a comprehensive package of business investment incentives and tax credits in 2007 to keep its centrifuge machine manufacturing work at Oak Ridge. The company currently has more than 200 direct employees working on the program at Oak Ridge. BWXT is expected to hire some 400 Oak Ridge workers for peak production rates.
Philip Sewell, Usec senior vice president, American Centrifuge and Russian HEU, said: "Purchasing this facility at Oak Ridge is an excellent investment for Usec". He added, "This unique building has been a focal point for centrifuge balancing and testing activities for decades and is a core element of the manufacturing infrastructure for our American Centrifuge program. Using this facility saves Usec valuable time and money compared to building a new one."
The American Centrifuge Plant will use US gas centrifuge technology based on a design originally developed by the DoE but with design, material and manufacturing improvements. Usec has been testing and manufacturing individual machine components at its Centrifuge Technology Centre and K-1600 facilities in Oak Ridge since 2005. Usec began its centrifuge program at Oak Ridge in 2001.
Usec is working toward starting commercial plant operations at the American Centrifuge Plant in late 2009 and having some 11,500 machines deployed in 2012, which would provide about 3.8 million separative work units (SWU) of production based on current estimates of machine output and plant availability.