GLE working with US companies to support laser enrichment commercialisation

04 July 2022

Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) has executed of a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) with Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress to develop areas of mutual interest and cooperation in the nuclear fuel supply chain. It recently executed a similar LOI with Constellation Energy Generation.

(Image: Pixabay)

GLE - a joint venture of Australian company Silex Systems Limited (51%) and Canadian uranium and nuclear fuel provider Cameco Corporation (49%) is the exclusive licensee of the SILEX laser technology for uranium enrichment.

The LOI with Duke identifies a number of key areas of potential cooperation, including supporting GLE's deployment of the SILEX laser enrichment technology in the USA and the potential acceleration of commercialisation timelines, Silex said.

"The LOI between GLE and Duke Energy is another positive step in advancing GLE's strategy to commercialise the SILEX technology and support the diversification of domestic US uranium, conversion and enrichment capabilities and capacity," Silex CEO Michael Goldsworthy said.

"As the US government ramps up initiatives to rebuild its domestic nuclear fuel supply chain and lessen its dependence on nuclear fuel imports, particularly from Russia, we anticipate GLE's engagement with US nuclear power generators will help support the commercialisation of the SILEX technology," he added.

Duke Energy is one of the largest energy companies in the USA, operating 11 major nuclear power units across six sites in North Carolina and South Carolina.

While no decision has yet been made, Silex and Cameco are reviewing the feasibility of accelerating GLE’s commercialisation programme in response to these emerging opportunities, subject to alignment with evolving market conditions, Silex said.

The agreement with Duke is the second LOI with US companies announced in the space of a month by GLE. It executed a non-binding LOI with Constellation Energy Generation in early-June, to assess areas of cooperation. That LOI, like the one with Duke, also included measures to support GLE's deployment of SILEX laser enrichment technology in the USA and diversifying US domestic uranium, conversion and enrichment capabilities and capacity.

With "appropriate market signals and commercial support", GLE may become a significant supplier of nuclear fuel for reactors in the USA and internationally, the company said. "GLE is uniquely positioned, through its ongoing development and commercialisation of laser enrichment technology in the United States, to address multiple emerging demands across the nuclear fuel supply chain as a result of global climate change and current geopolitical challenges, such as Russia's invasion of Ukraine," it said.

These include:

  • Tails processing to produce natural-grade uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and help alleviate supply pressure on UF6 conversion supply;
  • Building capacity to supply enrichment for the production of low-enriched uranium (LEU) and so-called low-enriched uranium plus (LEU+); and
  • Building additional capacity to produce the high assay LEU - or HALEU - fuel needed by next generation advanced small modular reactors.

The LOI reflects GLE's willingness to work together to accelerate development and commercialisation of laser enrichment technology to help diversify and bolster the security of the front end of the fuel cycle, both for existing and next-generation reactors, GLE President and Chief Commercial Officer James Dobchuk said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News