Laser enrichment test loop starts up

4 August 2009

Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) has started-up a “test loop” to evaluate its next-generation laser uranium enrichment technology, it said 30 July.

The company, a joint-venture between GE Hitachi and Cameco will decide whether to build a commercial laser enrichment facility in Wilmington, North Carolina based on data from the test loop. The test loop has been designed to confirm the commercial feasibility of the technology and advance the design of the equipment, facility and processes for the planned commercial production facility.

GLE said it should have sufficient data from the test loop to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the commercial facility by the end of 2009. At that time, the company would refine its projected schedule for bringing the plant online.

The GLE commercial production facility, if built, would have a target capacity of 3.5 million to six million separative work units (SWUs). A SWU is a unit measuring the energy used to enrich uranium, which is then fabricated into fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants.

In July GLE announced it had submitted its licence application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build the full-scale facility. The NRC’s estimated 30-month application review process officially begins once the agency formally dockets, or accepts, the GLE application.

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