USEC and the US Department of Energy (DoE) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which both USEC and the DoE make commitments intended to ensure stability for the US uranium enrichment industry.

The DoE will work with USEC in its development and deployment of an advanced centrifuge uranium enrichment plant at Portsmouth by 2010 or at Paducah by 2011, beginning with the authorisation of a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement and the establishment of a Deployment Working Group. DoE also commits to support USEC as the executive agent under the Russian HEU agreement. The DoE will also take three years worth of depleted uranium from USEC’s production over a four-year period.

USEC commits to deploying an advanced uranium enrichment plant by 2010-2011; to operate the 50-year-old Paducah plant at a minimum production level of 3.5 million SWU annually until the new technology plant is within six months of completion of a production capacity level of 3.5 million SWU; to maintain certain DoE property that could serve as a site for an advanced plant; to annually order and take delivery of low-enriched uranium derived from 30t of Russian warhead material through to 2013; and finally, USEC also commits to operate the shipping and transfer facility at the Portsmouth plant for an additional 15 months to clean up a portion of its inventory that is potentially contaminated by technetium. This move is expected to save over half the jobs that could have been lost under USEC’s corporate downsizing announced earlier.