Silex Systems Limited of Australia and Canada’s Cameco Corporation have completed the restructure of SILEX technology licensee Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) resulting in Silex acquiring a 51% majority interest in GLE, and Cameco increasing its interest from 24% to 49%.
Silex said the path to market for GLE and the SILEX technology involves the establishment of the proposed Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility (PLEF), underpinned by the existing agreement between GLE and the US Department of Energy (DOE) for the purchase of significant stockpiles of depleted uranium tails.
Preliminary analysis by Silex of the PLEF project, which could potentially produce over 5 million pounds of natural grade uranium per year for several decades, indicates it could rank as a ‘Tier 1’ uranium resource based on estimates of the long-life and low cost of production.
GLE will continue to assess other commercial opportunities, including additional capacity at the Paducah plant to produce low enriched uranium (LEU) for conventional nuclear plants and high assay fuel (HALEU) for next generation small modular reactors (SMRs).
GLE and Silex will continue to focus on the SILEX uranium enrichment technology demonstration project, with completion of a full-scale pilot plant programme anticipated by the mid 2020s.
In January, Silex had announced that the GLE restructure had obtained US Government approval and that the three parties were working to finalise the remaining conditions and other transition arrangements. These conditions and arrangements have now been completed.
Silex CEO and Managing Director, Dr Michael Goldsworthy, said: “This new ownership structure, together with the recently announced US Government approval, represents the start of an important new era for GLE and the SILEX technology, at a time when nuclear power is coming back into focus as a key source of zero-emissions base load electricity in an emissions constrained world. Silex will continue to focus on the well-defined commercialisation program which includes commencing the preliminary planning for the establishment of the first commercial plant planned for Paducah, Kentucky.”
Cameco, which now has a 49% interest in GLE, said in a statement: “We continue to explore innovative areas like laser enrichment technology to broaden our fuel cycle participation and help us serve our customers more effectively. Uranium enrichment is the second-largest value component, after uranium, in a typical light-water reactor fuel bundle.”
It added: “While there are still a number of development milestones before this technology could be commercialised, we believe it has excellent potential to expand Cameco’s reach in the nuclear fuel cycle in the future, building on the existing world-class assets and capabilities we already possess in uranium production, refining, conversion and fuel fabrication.”
Cameco noted that Canada and the United States are among the nations around the world pursuing ambitious carbon reduction strategies. “Governments in both countries have signalled significant interest in cooperating on clean energy solutions, developing and deploying SMR technologies, and collaborating to bolster critical mineral and nuclear fuel cycle security. GLE could fit extremely well with these bilateral policy priorities, potentially providing a stable source of North American-based uranium enrichment, adding to the robustness of the continental nuclear energy supply chain, and helping to de-risk any fuel concerns impeding the progress of emerging SMR designs.”