The US Centrus Energy Corporation has signed a contract worth around $32.3m with UT-Battelle, the operator of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), for further work towards commercial-scale uranium enrichment using the company's American Centrifuge technology. The contract runs until the end of September, and Centrus said it will "continue to perform engineering and testing work to preserve and advance US-origin uranium enrichment technology to support future national security and energy security needs".
Vice-president of American Centrifuge for Centrus Steve Penrod said: "Over the long-term, we plan to continue advancing our technological expertise in uranium enrichment technology, operations, and manufacturing so that we are ready to deploy a commercial-scale enrichment facility when sufficient market demand recovers."
Centrus, which emerged from the restructuring of the US Enrichment Corporation (USEC) in 2014, said in December that it had reached agreement with Russian uranium enrichment company Techsnabexport (Tenex) to modify the terms of the long-term supply contract they signed in 2011 and to extend their contractual relationship until 2026.
Centrus announced in early March that it has signed several new sales contracts over the previous last nine months to supply its utility customers with enriched uranium fuel. In aggregate, the contracts have a value of approximately $165m with deliveries until 2022. Centrus Energy Corp made a gross profit of $69m in 2015 but made a net loss of $187.4m after a non-cash impairment charge of $137.2 stemming from its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2014.
In February, Centrus ended operations at its demonstration cascade of American Centrifuge machines at Piketon, Ohio and said it would "demobilise" the demonstration cascade. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted Centrus a combined construction and operating licence for the commercial plant in 2007, and commercial operation was expected by 2010. However, the project was halted in 2009 after problems securing federal loan guarantees. The demonstration plant continued to receive federal funding, but the Department of Energy (DOE) announced in September 2015 that it would no further operations as the centrifuge cascade had successfully delivered the necessary data. Centrus had then funded ongoing operations while exploring other potential uses for the facility and workforce.
The demonstration cascade has now been demobilized and decontamination and decommissioning work will begin in accordance with the demonstration facility's licence. Centrus said that it intends to maintain core technical capabilities and preserve the opportunity to support future nuclear activities at Piketon.