Urenco is planning to build a $1 billion uranium enrichment facility in the USA, a move that will introduce competition in the US nuclear fuel market. Peter Lenny, CEO of the US marketing subsidiary of Urenco, said the plant would be designed to produce at least 30% of fuel for US nuclear plants.
"We see it as a commercial opportunity to deploy our technology in the United States," said Mr Lenny. Representatives from Urenco have have made "preliminary" contacts with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Bush administration on the plan to build a new gas centrifuge enrichment facility. An application is expected to be filed with the NRC early this year.
Urenco, a consortium of Dutch, German and British companies, is seeking US partners for the project. James Malone, a vice president of Exelon, the largest operator of nuclear plants in the USA, said: "We're interested enough to become a force in driving things along." He added that the project would put increased pressure on USEC "to try and get themselves to be a more competitive business." Exelon and Duke Power (who is also on board) were involved in a similar venture in Louisiana seven years ago, which was dropped for several reasons, including objections on environmental grounds. Mr Lenny said that any potential site for the new project, should it be approved, would be one with a history of nuclear fuel production. He pointed out that Urenco has built three enrichment plants in Europe since proposing the Louisiana project and could now offer a more efficient, proven design.
USEC derives part of its enriched uranium from its 50-year-old gaseous diffusion facility in Paducah. The company currently supplies about 40% of the world's nuclear fuel, while Urenco supplies about 12%.