B&W and Usec join to make centrifuges

14 May 2009

Usec and Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Group are to set up a joint venture to manufacture and assemble the AC100 centrifuges for Usec's American Centrifuge Plant (ACP).

Prototype American Centrifuge (Usec)
A prototype American Centrifuge machine (Image: Usec)
The new venture, with activities expected to exceed $1 billion in value, will provide integrated manufacturing and assembly of the centrifuge machines for the ACP uranium enrichment plant, as well as providing spare parts and other maintenance support services for the machines under a long-term service agreement. Formation of the company, to be known as American Centrifuge Manufacturing (ACM), is expected to take place over the next few months. Usec will be the majority owner.
ACM will manage all aspects of manufacturing Usec's AC100 series machines through to assembly of production unit centrifuges at the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio. It will assume Usec's existing contracts with suppliers for centrifuge machine components. In developing the US manufacturing infrastructure necessary to build its centrifuges, Usec has assembled what it describes as a "uniquely qualified group of strategic suppliers" who will now work through ACM, including ATK (manufacturer of the centrifuge rotors), Major Tool & Machine (machine casings) and Curtiss-Wright (machine motors). These components, as well as those manufactured by ACM, will be combined into sub-assemblies at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


ACM, through Usec's existing contract with Honeywell Technical Solutions, will oversee final assembly at the Piketon site. Usec notes that its existing engineering, procurement, construction and construction management services contract with Fluor for the construction of the American Centrifuge Plant will not be affected by the formation of ACM.
Usec president and CEO John Welch said that a multifaceted project like the ACP needs a formalized, single point of accountability for manufacturing. "We will now have a single entity whose total focus is on delivering high-quality commercial centrifuges while minimizing the cost of precision manufacturing," he said.
Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) has been involved in the project since 2007, when Usec selected BWXT Technologies to perform centrifuge component manufacturing work at its site at Oak Ridge. Robert Cochran, president of Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Group, said the company's decision to partner with Usec was testimony to the long-term value of the project. "Once the American Centrifuge Plant has been built, the precision manufacturing facility we have assembled in Oak Ridge could be utilized to support this and many other precision manufacturing projects in the future," he said.
Usec says it will retain all intellectual property and licenses related to its US gas centrifuge design and plans to continue research and development on advanced gas centrifuge technologies through its subsidiary American Centrifuge Technology.
Construction work has been under way on the ACP since 2007. The 3.8 million SWU plant had been scheduled for commercial operation in early 2010, reaching full capacity by 2012. However, Usec recently warned that a decision to slow spending on the project pending the outcome of its application for a federal loan guarantee could impact the startup schedule.