Areva has submitted a licence application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its proposed Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility.

Areva announced its selection of the Idaho site for a 3 million SWU per year centrifuge enrichment plant in May 2008, and has submitted applications for a share of the $2 billion being made available in loan guarantees for advanced front-end nuclear fuel cycle facilities under the US Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) programme to help boost clean energy technologies in the USA. A new Areva subsidiary, Areva Enrichment Services LLC (AES), was formed in December to take responsibility for the company’s US enrichment services and to own and operate the Eagle Rock plant.

The plant will use centrifuge technology developed by the Enrichment Technology Company Limited (ETC), a 50:50 Urenco-Areva joint venture which develops and manufactures gas centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment. Areva is looking towards beginning construction in 2011, assuming it receives its construction and operation licence from the NRC. Such timing would see the first 500,000SWU module operational by 2014, with full capacity reached by 2019.

Eagle Rock would be the third centrifuge enrichment plant to begin construction in the USA, joining Usec’s American Centrifuge plant in Ohio, and the National Enrichment Facility being built by Urenco’s wholly owned US subsidiary Louisiana Enrichment Services (LES) in New Mexico. Usec says it is working towards beginning commercial plant operations at the American Centrifuge Plant in early 2010, with approximately 11,500 machines providing about 3.8 million SWU of production by the end of 2012. First production at the National Enrichment Facility is due to begin in 2009, and LES recently announced plans to increase the plant’s capacity from the currently planned 3 million SWU to 5.9 million SWU by 2015. Like Areva, Usec has also applied for DoE loan guarantees to support its plant.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Areva is currently building the Georges Besse II enrichment plant in France, also using ETC’s centrifuge technology. The plant, a replacement for the ageing Georges Besse diffusion enrichment plant, is due to start up in 2009.

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