Australian technology company Silex Systems and Canada's Cameco Corporation have signed a term sheet for the joint purchase of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s 76% stake in Global Laser Enrichment (GLE).

This will result in Silex acquiring a 51% interest in GLE and Cameco increasing its interest in GLE from 24% to 49%. GLE is currently the licensee for the SILEX, laser-based uranium enrichment technology developed by Silex Systems.

Silex CEO Dr Michael Goldsworthy said this would provide an ideal path for the continued commercialisation of its technology in the USA. “Should the binding purchase agreement be successfully completed, this will provide a viable path for the commercialisation of the SILEX technology through the Paducah project,” he said.

The parties hope to execute the agreement by the end of April. However, it remains subject to obtaining US Government approvals and to a 2016 sales agreement remaining in full force.

Under the term sheet, funding for the continuation of GLE’s Wilmington Test Loop activities will be paid pro-rata by Silex and Cameco at $300,000 a month. It also provides for a deferred purchase price of $20 million payable to GEH in four consecutive annual installments of $5 million.

Silex and Cameco are working through several ancillary documents which will support a restructure of GLE under the proposed transaction, including a new shareholders’ agreement for the governance of GLE once the term sheet is finalised. There is also a caveat for the restructuring of GLE, which includes an option for Cameco to acquire up to a 75% stake in the joint venture in future.

Silex developed its Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation (SILEX) technology in 1990, and licensed its exclusively to GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment in 2006. a business venture comprising GE, Hitachi and Cameco, which sought to deploy the technology in the USA. However, in June 2018, efforts to restructure GLE stalled after GE-Hitachi disclosed it was seeking to pull out of the venture. The future of the SILEX technology was placed in doubt and  commercialisation efforts at Paducah were put on hold. Nevertheless, Silex said the Paducah commercial opportunity remained an ideal path for marketing its laser enrichment technology, although further work on market access issues, and a recovery in the uranium market price were required to reduce associated risks at Paducah.

Silex said it would continue commercialisation efforts at GLE’s test loop facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, but at a reduced capacity. This is being done in parallel with commercialisation efforts at Silex’s Lucas Heights facility in Sydney.