A cascade of centrifuges at the American Centrifuge Plant has started operating in commercial configuration, USEC said on 16 March. The firm describes the milestone as “an important step towards demonstrating the technology is ready for commercial deployment” and says it is integral to addressing DOE’s requirements for a loan guarantee.
“This is an important step forward beyond our earlier prototype machines. These are production machines built by our suppliers for the commercial American Centrifuge Plant," said USEC president and CEO John K. Welch. USEC’s production centrifuge machine design is known as the AC100 series centrifuge machine.
“This phase is one of the last steps necessary to demonstrate that the world's most advanced centrifuge technology is ready for commercial deployment. It validates our supply chain for manufacturing of centrifuge machines and confirms that the technology is ready to transition for commercial operation,” Welch continued.
USEC says it expects to operate the machines at commercial plant conditions obtaining data on machine-to-machine interactions, system performance and plant design. The cascade is expected to run until a brief, scheduled outage in June as required by the operating license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"Lead Cascade operations are integral to our efforts to address DOE's requirements for a loan guarantee,” Welch said. As well as accumulating operating experience on the cascade, Welch said that USEC would continue to build and install a limited number of additional AC100 centrifuge machines, keeping its manufacturing base active and positioned for remobilization of the project.
To date, USEC says it has invested more than $1.7 billion in the ACP project, to update the technology, to re-establish manufacturing infrastructure and to begin construction of the commercial plant.
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