Louisiana Energy Services (LES) has announced that, due to customer demands, it plans to double the capacity of the National Enrichment Facility (NEF), currently under construction in Eunice, New Mexico.
|Construction work at the NEF site (Image: Urenco)
The company said it plans to pursue expansion of the plant from its currently planned capacity of 3 million SWU* to 5.9 million SWU. According to LES, by doubling the plant's capacity, NEF will be able to provide some 50% of the USA's total demand for nuclear fuel.
LES said that, with the expansion, its total investment in the NEF project will be over $3 billion, up from some $1.5 billion.
Reinhard Hinterreither, LES president and CEO, said: "When LES started its project it was based on a commitment on the part of its customers to use the services that LES would provide. We are proud to see that our customers’ belief in the successful operations of LES has led them to increase their service requirements to LES which gives us the background to increase its overall capacity."
He added, "LES began examining the business case to pursue an expansion of its plant in Lea County several months ago. That business case depends on several factors: commitments from utility customers, availability of investment capital, long term stability of the US enrichment market, community support, and rests on the approval of state and federal regulatory agencies and the Urenco board."
The NEF uses 6th generation Urenco technology from Europe, and was planned by the LES partnership - comprising Urenco, Exelon, Duke Power, Entergy and Westinghouse. Construction of the plant was licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in mid-2006 and, as agreed, the three US utilities then passed their share to Urenco which now wholly owns LES.
Utility support for the venture has been crucial in persuading NRC that further US enrichment capacity is required beyond that provided and envisaged by USEC. LES said that it now has orders amounting to some $3 billion over the next 20 years from customers in the USA, East Asia and Europe.
The first high-grade concrete was poured at NEF in August 2007. First production at the plant is expected in 2009, with full capacity of 3 million SWU per year being reached in 2013. The expansion of the plant to 5.9 million SWU could be completed by 2015.
* SWU, or Separative Work Unit, is the unit used to measure the energy required to separate uranium-235 from uranium-238.