Utilities and traders book into enrichment

30 March 2009

Two Japanese firms have taken a stake in Areva's Georges Besse II (GB-II)enrichment plant, while USEC has announced it has customers for half of the output of its own forthcoming facility.


Both Areva and USEC are building centrifuge-based uranium enrichment facilities. Areva's George-Besse II plant is under construction at the Tricastin complex in France, while USEC's American Centrifuge is being built at Piketon, Ohio.


USEC said today that it had commitment "valued at $3.3 billion" from ten customers "including leading utilities in the USA, Europe and Asia." The commitments, USEC said, amounted to more than half of the initial sales from the American Centrifuge plant. The same statement included supportive words from Ichiro Takekuro of Tokyo Electric Power Company.


Two new investors in GB-II announced today are Kansai Electric Power Company and the trading company Sojitz, both based in Japan. They will jointly take a 2.5% stake in Société d'Enrichissement du Tricatin (SET), the operator of the future plant. The investment comes after GdF-Suez took a 5% holding in SET last year.


The GB-II plant is scheduled to start operating later this year. The plant will replace Areva's existing Georges Besse plant at Tricastin, which uses energy-intensive gas diffusion technology. In April 2007, the new plant received a licence to operate at up to 8.2 million SWU per year, enriching uranium up to a maximum of 6%.


The American Centrifuge is planned for commercial operation at the plant at the end of the first quarter of 2010, and reaching 1 million SWU capacity in the first quarter of 2011 and the full 3.8 million SWU capacity at the end of 2012.