Celebrations at US centrifuge plant

10 April 2014

The second phase of the Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant is now fully operational, with the plant working at a capacity of 3.7 million separative work units (SWU).

Still expanding: The Urenco USA centrifuge plant, pictured in March 2014 (Image: Urenco)

The first phase of the New Mexico plant began operations in June 2010 and reached its full capacity of 1.6 million SWU in 2012. Since then, the enrichment plant has continued to expand capacity with new construction and the installation of further gas centrifuges. Construction is already under way on Phase III, which when completed will bring the total capacity of the plant to approximately 5.7 million SWU.

President and CEO of Urenco USA operator Louisiana Enrichment Services, Dave Sexton, said: "This represents a significant accomplishment for the plant; it demonstrates the teamwork and commitment across the company, our major contractors, and vendors." He added, "Of course this would have not been possible without the strong continued support from the community and the dedication of our employees for the last seven years of construction and four years of operation." 

Urenco USA has been the nation's only operating uranium enrichment plant since the closure of USEC's Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant in 2013, a fact not lost on Sexton. "When our Combined Licence for Construction and Operation (COL) was granted by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2006, we had no idea that we would ultimately be the only commercially operating domestic enrichment plant in the United States at this phase of the project," he commented. 

In addition to the Eunice plant, two new enrichment plants are being built by other companies and are expected to begin operation before 2020. Areva is planning to build a 3.3 million SWU centrifuge plant at Eagle Rock in Idaho while Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) is planning a 6 million SWU laser enrichment plant in in Wilmington, North Carolina. Also, USEC had started building its own enrichment plant, the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, which had been due to begin operation in 2010, but the project was put on hold in July 2009.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News