NRC licence for Eagle Rock enrichment plant

13 October 2011

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued Areva Enrichment Services (AES) with a licence to construct and operate a gas centrifuge enrichment plant in Idaho.


Eagle Rock (Areva)
How Areva envisages the Eagle Rock enrichment plant (Image: Areva)

The plant licence authorizes AES to enrich uranium up to 5% by weight in fissile uranium-235 for use in the manufacture of nuclear fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors. Construction is due to begin in 2012 on the 6.6 million SWU per year plant, which will be similar to Areva's new French uranium enrichment plant, Georges Besse II. AES secured a $2 billion federal loan guarantee for the Eagle Rock plant from the US Department of Energy in May 2010, and signed a contract for procurement, construction and management services with URS Corporation in February 2011.
AES submitted its application to build the Eagle Rock plant near Idaho Falls in December 2008, resubmitting it with a doubling of the plant's capacity in April 2009. The NRC published its safety evaluation report on the proposed plant in September 2010, and an environmental impact statement in February 2011. After conducting the relevant hearings and evidentiary sessions, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) issued its decision authorizing NRC to issue the licence on 7 October.
The regulator will carry out inspections of the facility during construction and operation, and plans to hold a local public meeting before construction begins to explain the oversight process to members of the public.
Eagle Rock is one of three gas centrifuge plant projects in the USA. Urenco USA's centrifuge enrichment plant at Eunice, New Mexico, received NRC approval to begin commercial operations in mid-2010, and its first phase is ramping up towards its full 3.3 million SWU per year capacity, which it is due to achieve in 2013. Urenco plans see the plant eventually growing to provide up to 5.9 million SWU per year. Meanwhile, USEC's American Centrifuge Plant in Ohio, which had also been scheduled to start commercial operation in 2010, has been stymied by problems in securing a federal loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy, and is currently under a "standstill agreement".
Researched and written

by World Nuclear News