Areva maps out Eagle Rock expansion

22 April 2009

Areva Enrichment Services (AES) has submitted a "roadmap" to US regulators defining changes it plans to make to its licence application in order to double the capacity of the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility (EREF).

AES submitted its licence application for the centrifuge uranium enrichment plant to be built at Bonneville County, Idaho, at the end of 2008. On 31 March 2009 the company informed the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that it intended to revise the application to double the capacity of the plant from the originally planned 3.3 million SWU (separative work units, the unit of measurement for uranium enrichment) to 6.6 million SWU per year.

AES said that it had decided to revise the application to give it the flexibility to build a bigger plant if market conditions warrant and confirmed to World Nuclear News that it does not have any firm plans to do so. "In recent months, AES' confidence has increased regarding the construction of new reactors both in the United States and other countries," the company told NRC in its letter forewarning them of the revision. "While AES is still planning to build a 3.3 million SWU per year facility, this revision provides AES the ability to expand the EREF should market conditions favour increased capacity for uranium enrichment services," it went on.

According to documents submitted to the NRC, the expansion would add four years to the planned construction time for the site, revising the date for full capacity production from 2018 in the initial application (for 3.3 million SWU per year) to 2022 for full production at 6.6 million SWU per year. The expansion would involve the construction of two more Separations Building Modules, referred to in the document as SBM 3 and 4. These would be identical to the two SBMs in the original application with each module having its own uranium hexafluoride handling area and two cascade halls. The expanded plant would contain a total of 96 cascades and be capable of producing 8 different tails assays at any one time.

The "roadmap" identifies the major anticipated impacts from the expansion on the Environmental Report, the Safety Analysis Report, the Integrated Safety Assessment Summary, the Physical Security Plan, the Emergency Plan, the Fundamental Nuclear Material Control Plan, and the Standard Practice Procedure Plan, all of which form part of the licence application. It also covers new socioeconomic information and changes to assumptions in estimating decommissioning costs.

According to Areva's 31 March letter to the NRC, the company plans to submit the formal revision to the licence application by 23 April, and expects the revision to have minimal impact on NRC's schedule for the application review. AES is hoping to start construction on the plant in 2011.

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