The US Department of Energy (DoE) has signed an agreement with USEC to ensure continued supplies of Russian military-origin low-enriched uranium to the USA.

Under the agreement, USEC will take delivery of the weapons-derived uranium, and deploy new advanced technology enrichment plant at Portsmouth by 2010, or at Paducah by 2011. USEC must also maintain production of enriched uranium at the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant at 3.5 million SWU per year. The level can be reduced only after USEC is within six months of completing deployments of new enrichment technology with a production capacity of 3.5 million SWU.

USEC must also continue to operate its Portsmouth shipping and transfer facility for an additional 15 months to remove technetium from a portion of the company’s uranium inventory. The DoE said this will save half of the jobs that could have been lost as part of a consolidation programme announced two years ago. The shipping and transfer facility had originally been due to close up to five years after enrichment at Portsmouth had ended. The DoE said the agreement also establishes the future development viability and opportunity for Portsmouth and Paducah as candidate sites for new technology enrichment capabilities.