USEC and the US Department of Energy (DoE) have signed a raft of new agreements, completely reorganizing the American Centrifuge program.
The agreements define the scope, funding and technical goals for the research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program. The DoE is to provide a total of $280 million towards the program, while USEC will provide $70 million. The program will support building, installing, operating and testing commercial plant support systems and a 120-machine cascade that would be incorporated in the full commercial American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) in Piketon, Ohio, which is planned to operate 96 identical cascades.
The agreements include step-in rights for the DoE "to take over the program if necessary, should the private sector be unable or unwilling to commercialize the ACP technology."
Initially, USEC and DoE will provide $110 million in cost-shared funding for the program to run until the end of November. The DoE's portion of this will come from taking the disposal obligation for a quantity of depleted uranium tails from USEC, releasing $87.7 million in cash that USEC had previously committed as security for future tails disposition obligations.
The DoE said that later phases of the RD&D program will be supported by appropriated funds, "if available." USEC said that it would continue working with the DoE and Congress to "pursue opportunities for funding the balance of the RD&D program." The agreements include step-in rights for the DoE "to take over the program if necessary, should the private sector be unable or unwilling to commercialize the ACP technology."
USEC recently established a new company - American Centrifuge Demonstration LLC (ACD) - to conduct the program, which is to be managed under a new enhanced governance structure. This structure is expected to include an ACD board of managers that will not be controlled by USEC and to include participation of project partners such as strategic investors Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox.
As part of the agreements, USEC has granted the DoE a non-exclusive, royalty-free licence in centrifuge intellectual property for government purposes. In addition, the DoE will immediately assume ownership of certain existing equipment used in the RD&D program as well as all equipment, such as centrifuge machines, produced or acquired as part of the RD&D program. USEC will lease this equipment from the DoE, who will transfer ownership back to USEC if it proceeds with the deployment of the commercial plant.
The DoE has put in place a series of technical milestones and performance metrics that will enable it to monitor progress and effectively oversee the project.
USEC president and CEO John Welch said, "Over the last several months, we have been preparing our demonstration facility for installation of a full-scale commercial cascade with related plant infrastructure. With this RD&D agreement in place, we will move rapidly to build additional AC100 machines and related support systems to complete the demonstration cascade." He added, "Upon completion by the end of next year, this RD&D program will fully demonstrate that the American Centrifuge technology is ready for commercial deployment."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News