Michael Goldsworthy, CEO of Australian-based Silex Systems, said: "We disagree with USEC's view of the potential and current state of the SILEX technology. It is incomprehensible to us that USEC has decided to abandon the SILEX programme only a few months short of completing the current test programme and being in a good position to assess the economic performance of the SILEX process." He added: "It is even more surprising that this decision has been made in light of recent positive test results." Silex believes the technology would be ready for deployment in around 2009.
A statement issued by USEC read: "The company has concluded that it is unlikely that the SILEX technology can be utilised to meet USEC's needs and it would not be a prudent investment for its shareh0olders. Although the SILEX process is capable of enriching uranium, it is still in the early stage of development and faces numerous technological hurdles that must be overcome." Meanwhile, Robert van Namen, USEC vice president of marketing and sales, said the company is working to deploy its advanced uranium enrichment technology "as rapidly as possible." In a speech to the Nuclear Energy Institute, van Namen said USEC is focused on building and operating a new commercial enrichment plant by the end of the decade. On February 12 this year, USEC submitted its application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to construct and operate the so-called American Centrifuge Demonstration Facility at the company's facilities in Piketon, Ohio.
The NRC has completed its initial review of USEC's licence application for the America Centrifuge Demonstration Facility and found the application acceptable for technical review. The NRC expects to finish reviewing USEC's application in February 2004.