The URENCO USA facility (formally known as the National Enrichment Facility) has begun producing enriched uranium. Production comes after initial authorisation to proceed granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on 10 June 2010. Deliveries of uranium hexafluoride feedstock to the site began 13 June 2010.

Operations began on 25 June with the introduction of uranium hexafluoride into Cascade 1, the first of many centrifuge cascades scheduled to become operational over the next few years. Eventually the facility will provide a combined output equivalent to meeting approximately 10% of US energy demand, according to URENCO.

Gregory OD Smith, president and chief executive officer for LES and its URENCO USA facility, commented on the beginning of production. “This is the culmination of four years of effort since the NRC licensed LES to design, construct and operate a URENCO advanced centrifuge enrichment facility outside Eunice, New Mexico.

The URENCO USA facility is one of four enrichment facilities planned for the USA.

Of the others USEC’s American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon Ohio is the most advanced, however construction has been demobilized while USEC waits for the Department of Energy’s decision on a $2 billion loan guarantee, expected this summer.

AREVA has plans to build the Eagle Rock enrichment facility in Idaho, which won a conditional commitment for a $2 billion loan guarantee from the DOE in May. AREVA submitted a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2008 to build the Eagle Rock plant at a site 18 miles west of Idaho Falls. If approved, construction on the 3.3 million SWU (separative work unit) facility could begin in 2011 and operations as early as 2014.

Global Laser Enrichment, a joint-venture between GEH and Cameco started a test loop to evaluate its laser enrichment technology in July 2009. In January 2010, the NRC formally established a 30-month application review schedule for a commercial facility. This means that the commercial facility license could be received as early as January 2012, after which construction of the production plant could start.

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