GLE submits licence application for laser enrichment plant

1 July 2009

Plans for the world’s first commercial laser enrichment facility have taken a step forward. Global Laser Enrichment, a business venture of GE, Hitachi Ltd. and Cameco announced on 30 June that it has submitted a licence application for the facility to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

GLE is planning to build an enrichment plant with capacity of three-to-six million separative work units (SWUs) in Wilmington, North Carolina. If approved, the facility could create 300 jobs and more than 500 construction jobs.

The NRC needs to docket, or accept the GLE application before it can start the estimated 30-month application review. In January GLE submitted its environmental report for the proposed facility, representing a significant portion of the overall licence application, in an effort to make the process more efficient.

A decision has not been made whether to go ahead with the facility. GLE is currently planning an enrichment test loop to confirm the commercial feasibility of the technology and advance the design of the equipment, facility and processes. It will use the information from the test loop in its evaluations of whether or not to proceed with the full-scale commercial facility.

”This is an exciting time in our industry,” said Tammy Orr, president and CEO of GLE. “As world leaders in innovation and technology, we have a unique opportunity to offer needed enrichment supply to nuclear operators meeting the challenges of energy security, climate change and increased demands for power.”

There are currently three other planned enrichment facilities in the USA. Two projects are in an advanced stage: Usec’s American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio is due to start commercial operations in early 2010; Lousisana Energy Services, a subsidiary of Urenco is constructing the National Enrichment Facility in New Mexico, due to come online in the third quarter of this year. Areva is planning the Eagle Rock Enrichment facility in Idaho. Its subsidiary Areva Enrichment Services has submitted a licence application to the NRC and if it is successful, construction should start in 2011.

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