American Centrifuge construction begins

01 June 2007

Construction work on Usec's American Centrifuge plant began on 31 May, following the granting of a licence to construct and operate the plant in mid April.

Usec President and CEO, John Welch said the development was "another important step toward deploying US-developed centrifuge technology."

The plant, in Piketon, Ohio, will be based on large energy-efficient centrifuge machines, developed from original designs by the US Department of Energy. Its modular construction would mean that more capacity could be added relatively cheaply.

The company has scheduled commercial operation to begin in late 2009, ramping up to 11,500 machines providing a 3.8 million separative work unit (SWU) capacity by 2012 as more cascade modules are brought online. Total costs for the new plant are estimated at $2.3 billion.

The enrichment process increases the concentration of the fissionable uranium isotope (U-235) in order to produce nuclear reactor fuel. The licence Usec holds for the eventual plant would allow it to enrich uranium up to an assay level of 10% U-235, and be expanded to a capacity of 7 million SWU.

Separately, Usec has signed a five-year contract with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for electricity supply to its other enrichment plant, an energy-hungry gaseous diffusion design at Portsmouth. Nuclear power accounted for 28% of TVA's generation in fiscal year 2005.

Further information

Usec

WNA's Uranium Enrichment information paper

WNN: Usec granted licence for new enrichment plant

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