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Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant project (USA) - Current Issues   flag

(last updated 24 Jul 2014)

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Urenco USA Lea County uranium enrichment plant (New Mexico)

(formerly "National Enrichment Facility")

NRC Docket No. 07003103
NRC License No. SNM-2010

Aerial view: Google Maps external link new window · MSRMaps external link new window

> See also:

 

Urenco USA requests significant increase in possession mass limits and permission to utilize high assay tails as enrichment feed

On June 19, 2014, Urenco USA submitted a request to NRC On July 24, 2014, NRC announced an opportunity to request a hearing and to petition for leave to intervene. Requests must be filed by September 22, 2014.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 142 (Thursday, July 24, 2014) p. 43099-43104 (download full text external link)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044 external link

 

Urenco USA enrichment plant reaches capacity of 3.7 million SWU/a

On Apr. 9, 2014, Urenco USA announced the introduction of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) into the last centrifuge cascade of Phase II. The completion of Phase II brings the enrichment capacity to approximately 3.7 million separative work units (SWU) of production capability.
On June 24, 2014, NRC announced the availability of inspection reports prior to the commencement of operations of the new cascades.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 121 (Tuesday, June 24, 2014) p. 35817-35818 (download full text external link)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264 external link

 

NRC finds loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant

During an inspection conducted from November 18-21, 2013, NRC identified a loss of criticality controls due to inadequate implementation of items relied on for safety (IROFS) in the small component decontamination train (SCDT).
> Download Inspection Report Feb. 7, 2014 external link (ADAMS Acc. No. ML14028A073)
A predecisional enforcement conference was scheduled for Feb. 28, 2014. (NRC Feb. 21, 2014)

 

Urenco USA enrichment plant starts operation of new cascades

On Oct. 24, 2013, NRC announced the availability of inspection reports prior to the commencement of operations of the new cascades.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 206 (Thursday, October 24, 2013) p. 63518-63519 (download full text external link)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264 external link

 

Urenco USA enrichment plant reaches capacity of 3 million SWU/a

On Sep. 16, 2013, Urenco announced that the activation of the newest centrifuge cascade brings the enrichment plant to slightly over 3 million separative work units (SWU) of production capacity.

 

Urenco USA plans to re-enrich depleted uranium

On Aug. 8, 2013, NRC announced a closed meeting with Louisiana Energy Services, LLC, on Aug. 22, 2013, with the purpose: "a pre-application discussion of a license amendment request to add re-feed capability to the Urenco USA facility".

 

NRC issues Notice of Violation to Urenco USA for forgeries facilitating installation of inferior quality components at Lea County enrichment plant

"[...] a LES contractor employee forged the initials and signature of an LES Quality Control (QC) Inspector in the QC Verification block of the Construction Work Plan Material List (EG-3-6000-01-F-5), and the Warehouse Material Identification and Control, Material Requisition form (PR-3-3000-03-F-2), to allow for the installation of non-QL 1 bolts in the Centrifuge Cooling Water of Cascade 2. These forgeries facilitated the installation of QL-3 bolts and nuts in place of the required QL-1 bolts and nuts."
> Download Inspection Report external link, July 29, 2013

 

Urenco USA requests permission to increase enrichment limit from 5.0% to 5.5%

On July 16, 2013, Urenco requested NRC to issue a license amendment for the Urenco USA facility to increase the enrichment limit from 5.0% to 5.5%.
NRC approved the request on Oct. 30, 2013, subject to conditions: "UUSA shall not produce product material in excess of 5.0 wt. % U-235 other than in the course of cascade performance adjustments, thus providing the operational flexibility to generate material to satisfactorily fulfill customer orders up to the 5.0 wt. % U-235 limit."

 

Capacity expansion of Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a (Phase III)

NRC announces opportunity to request a hearing and to petition for leave to intervene on capacity expansion of Urenco USA's enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a

In November 2012, URENCO USA submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a license amendment request to increase the annual production capability from the present 3 million separative work units (SWU) to 10 million SWU.
Requests for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene must be filed by May 20, 2013.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 53 (Tuesday, March 19, 2013) p. 16890-16893 (download full text external link)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044 external link

Urenco Board approves capital expenditure for capacity expansion of Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a

On Dec. 13, 2012, Urenco announced that the URENCO Ltd. Board of Directors has approved the Capital Expenditure Proposal for URENCO USA Phase III.

Urenco USA submits licence application for capacity expansion of enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a

> Download licence application, Nov. 9, 2012 external link

Urenco USA submits Supplemental Environmental Report for capacity expansion of enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a

> Download: cover letter Sep. 10, 2012 external link
> Download: Supplemental Environmental Report for Facility Capacity Expansion Request, September 2012: Part 1 (31MB PDF) external link · Part 2 (20MB PDF) external link
> Download: National Enrichment Facility, Environmental Report, Revision 5, June 2005 external link (52.9MB PDF)
> Download: Supplemental Environmental Report for Facility Capacity Expansion Request - July 2013 Revision 4c external link (48MB PDF)

 

NRC approves massive increase of amount of depleted UF6 stored onsite at Urenco USA enrichment plant

On April 27, 2012, NRC issued a license amendment to LES sharply increasing the allowed amount of depleted UF6 stored on site from 5,016 type 48Y cylinders to 15,727 type 48Y cylinders. In addition, the time limit for onsite storage is increased from 15 years to 25 years.
The amendment follows a request submitted by LES on July 10, 2009. LES further announced that it later will request a further increase to 25,000 cylinders, the amount given in a revised settlement agreement reached with the state of New Mexico. The originally licensed amount of 5,016 type 48Y cylinders is the cumulative amount that would be produced if the NEF operated for eight years at full capacity, so the license amendments now allows for the storage of the production of 25 years at full capacity.

 

NRC releases Inspection Reports for Urenco USA enrichment plant prior to the commencement of operations

> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 59 (Tuesday, March 27, 2012) p. 18272-18273 (download full text external link)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264 external link

 

NRC approves 4-year license extension for Urenco USA enrichment plant

On May 6, 2011, LES requested an amendment to license SNM-2010 that would extend the license expiration date to recapture the 48 months that elapsed from the 2006 license issuance date to when authorization to introduce uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into Cascade 1 was granted on June 10, 2010.
The NRC reviewed LES's license amendment request to extend the expiration date from 2036 to 2040, and found no significant environmental impacts from the shift in enrichment operation dates.
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 40 (Wednesday, February 29, 2012) p. 12333-12335 (download full text external link)

 

Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant receives NRC approval to operate fifth cascade

By letter dated Nov. 15, 2011, NRC authorized Urenco USA to introduce uranium hexafluoride into Cascade 1.5.

 

Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant receives NRC approval to operate two more cascades

A uranium enrichment plant in southeastern New Mexico has received approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin operating two more cascades. Urenco USA will now have double the capacity for enriching uranium that will supply fuel for nuclear power plants in the United States and overseas. Urenco spokesman Don Johnson says stock was being fed Wednesday (Aug. 24) into cascade No. 3 and No. 4 would be running within a few days. (AP Aug. 24. 2011)

 

Senior Criticality Safety Inspector of NRC raises concern about criticality safety at Urenco USA's uranium enrichment plant

NRC's Senior Criticality Safety Inspector Dennis Morey declared Non-Concurrence in the 2011 LES Licensee Performance Review (LPR) performed by the NRC: "The LES LPR should contain an Area Needing Improvement (ANI) in Safety Operations that expresses the staff concern that, because the licensee does not appear to understand or maintain the approved margin of subcriticality for safety, including programmatic commitments to technical practices, assurance of subcriticality needs to be improved."

> Download Dennis Morey Non-Concurrence in 2011 LES Licensee Performance Review external link, Feb. 28, 2011 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML110770438)
> Download 2011 LES Licensee Performance Letter and Enclosure external link, Mar. 9, 2011 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML110680220)

 

Urenco's uranium enrichment plant being built in New Mexico eyes expansion to double capacity

A uranium enrichment plant in southeastern New Mexico is eyeing a third expansion that would double the $3 billion plant's capacity. But the president and chief executive officer of Urenco USA, Gregory Smith, says it's not a done deal. An expansion would extend the plant's construction for three more years to 2017. (The Republic Mar. 14, 2011)

 

Urenco USA enrichment plant starts operation

On June 25, 2010, Urenco USA announced that it began production of enriched uranium.

 

Urenco USA enrichment plant receives operating licence

On June 10, 2010, Urenco USA announced that its uranium enrichment facility, located in Eunice, New Mexico, today received authorization from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that it may begin accepting operational delivery of uranium hexafluoride feed stock. The authorization allows Urenco USA (formerly the National Enrichment Facility) to begin commercial operations enriching uranium for use as nuclear fuel.

 

Urenco inaugurates New Mexico enrichment plant

On 2 June 2010, Urenco announced the inauguration of its Urenco USA/LES enrichment facility in Eunice, New Mexico. The facility is currently awaiting final NRC approval to commence commercial operations, which is expected shortly. When fully operational, the facility will produce 5,700 tSW/a.

 

International Isotopes Inc. concludes agreement with Urenco USA on deconversion services for depleted uranium

> View here

 

Urenco's New Mexico enrichment plant to generate 8,422 t of depleted uranium hexafluoride waste per year

By letter dated Aug. 14, 2009, LES requested from the Department of Energy (DOE) an updated cost estimate for the conversion and disposal of depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) to be generated at its National Enrichment Facility:
"For DUF6 conversion and disposal cost-estimating purposes, the DOE should assume an annual generation of 8,422 metric tons of DUF6 at the National Enrichment Facility over a 30-year period beginning in 2010."

 

First centrifuge installed at Urenco's New Mexico enrichment plant project

The first centrifuge was successfully installed at the National Enrichment Facility just outside town last Thursday (Sep 24). (KFDA, Sep. 27, 2009)

 

First uranium hexafluoride arrives at LES enrichment plant

On 15 February 2009, LES, URENCO's wholly owned subsidiary, achieved a new milestone at the National Enrichment Facility. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted authorisation permitting receipt of the first shipment of uranium hexafluoride to the site. The material will enable further quality control testing to take place prior to full installation of cascades into the centrifuge assembly building. (Urenco Feb. 25, 2009)

 

LES announces plan to double NEF capacity

On 21 November 2008, Louisiana Energy Services (LES) announced plans to pursue expansion of the National Enrichment Facility from its current planned size of 3 million separative work units (SWU) to 5.9 million SWU.

 

Group appeals water permit to LES plant

An Albuquerque-based environmental group has gone to the state Court of Appeals over a discharge permit for a uranium enrichment plant near Eunice. Citizens Against Radioactive Dumping says it feels like state officials ignored its concerns about the permit. The state Water Quality Commission in April upheld the New Mexico Environment Department's decision in favor of the permit for the Louisiana Energy Services facility. (Newswest Nov. 6, 2008)

 

LES requests NRC consent to conversion from Limited Partnership to Limited Liability Company; NRC provides opportunity to request a hearing and provide written comments

On Oct. 19, 2007, Louisiana Energy Services, L.P. requested NRC consent to its conversion to Louisiana Energy Services, L.L.C.
A request for a hearing must be filed by February 20, 2008.
Within 30 days from the date of publication of this notice, persons may submit written comments regarding the license transfer application.
Federal Register: January 31, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 21) p. 5882-5884 (download full text external link)
> View docket NRC-2008-0055 external link (regulations.gov)

 

Federal Appeals Court turns down Public Interest groups' challenge of license for proposed New Mexico uranium enrichment plant

On Sep. 7, 2007, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Public Citizen appeared before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit external link to challenge the legality of the license for Louisiana Energy Services' (LES) proposed uranium enrichment plant near Eunice, N.M. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted the license in June 2006, despite not having decided on the classification of the depleted uranium waste the facility will create.
> View Public Citizen release Sep. 7, 2007 external link

On Dec. 11, 2007, the Court denied the petitions filed by NIRS and Public Citizen.
> Download Court Opinion No. 06-1301, Dec. 11, 2007 external link (PDF)

 

Public Interest groups file brief to challenge license for proposed New Mexico uranium enrichment plant

> View Public Citizen Release April 3, 2007 external link
> Download NIRS and Public Citizen brief external link (4.6M PDF)

 

Groundbreaking

The groundbreaking ceremony for the LES enrichment plant project in Lea County was held on August 29, 2006.

 

NRC issues license for LES enrichment plant project

On June 23, 2006, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has issued a license to Louisiana Energy Services (LES) to construct and operate a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant in Lea County, N.M.
LES plans to begin construction in August 2006, with operations commencing in 2008, reaching full capacity in 2013.

NRC News Release June 23, 2006 external link

 

NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board finds LES' depleted uranium dispositioning cost estimates inadequate

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) finds that LES has failed to demonstrate the adequacy of its cost estimate for private sector deconversion of DU from the NEF and its cost estimate for disposal of NEF-generated DU. An NRC license for the NEF facility therefore must be based on the cost estimates that would be applicable under the plausible strategy associated with the U.S. Department of Energy providing DU dispositioning services.

> Download ASLB Memorandum, May 31, 2006 external link (ADAMS ML061510481)

 

DOE issues waiver for LES enrichment plant project

On May 24, 2006, the Department of Energy agreed to a waiver that allows Louisiana Energy Services (LES) and Urenco to share technological information needed to advance the design of the National Enrichment Facility (NEF) near Eunice in the southeastern part of New Mexico.
The waiver was necessary because of a U.S. prohibition against LES contacting Urenco about material, data, and technology it transferred to LES on the New Mexico project. The prohibition was created by the federal agency to prevent dissemination of dual use nuclear technology to different countries, but it had prevented LES from consulting with Urenco, which produced the original data. (New Mexico Business Weekly, May 25, 2006)

 

Urenco Buys Westinghouse Interest in LES

Urenco announced today it was purchasing the 24.5% interest held by Westinghouse Electric Company (owned by BNFL) in Louisiana Energy Services (LES) and the National Enrichment Facility (NEF). (Urenco Mar 3, 2006)
Urenco is therefore now the 100% owner of LES. (Urenco Annual Report and Accounts 2005)

 

NRC releases Final Environmental Impact Statement and Safety Evaluation Report for LES Lea County uranium enrichment plant project

> View NRC release June 15, 2005 external link
Federal Register: June 20, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 117) p. 35461-35462 (download full text external link)

> Download: Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed National Enrichment Facility in Lea County, New Mexico - Final Report (NUREG-1790), June 2005 external link
> Download: Safety Evaluation Report for the National Enrichment Facility in Lea County, New Mexico, Louisiana Energy Services (NUREG-1827), June 2005 external link

 

NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board dismisses environmental contentions against LES enrichment plant project

On June 8, 2005, an U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) adjudicatory board announced to dismiss the environmental contentions put forward against the nuclear company Louisiana Energy Services (LES) by Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). Public Citizen and NIRS announced that they intend to seek further review by the full commission.
> Download LB Memorandum and Order, June 8, 2005: via ADAMS external link (Acc. No. ML051590496) · via NIRS external link (PDF)
> View NIRS release Jun 8, 2005 external link

The full text of the LB memorandum was released on June 15, 2005:
> Download LBP-05-13 Memorandum, June 10, 2005: via ADAMS external link (Acc. No. ML051650558)

 

Governor, LES reach agreement on depleted uranium storage at proposed uranium enrichment plant

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson says LES has agreed to limit how much radioactive waste is stored and to dispose of it outside the state. The agreement requires LES to limit its storage of depleted uranium hexafluoride in New Mexico to 5,018 cylinders. Each cylinder holds up to 14 short tons of material. That amount is what the plant would produce over eight years to 10 years running at full capacity. If waste storage exceeds that amount, the facility must stop all operations that generate waste, Richardson said. No single container may be stored for longer than 15 years and all the waste must be converted or disposed of outside New Mexico, the agreement states. (Farmington Daily Times June 4, 2005)
But NRC staff says in a legal brief dated July 5, 2005 (ADAMS Acc. no. ML051860384) they believe the agreement is legally unenforceable. (KVIA July 9, 2005)
On August 12, 2005, an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board approved the Settlement Agreement.

 

NRC issues Draft Safety Evaluation Report for LES enrichment plant project

"The objective of this review is to evaluate the potential adverse impacts of operation of the facility on worker and public health and safety under both normal operating and accident conditions. The review also considers physical protection of SNM and classified matter, material control and accounting of SNM, and the management organization, administrative programs, and financial qualifications provided to ensure safe design and operation of the facility.
The NRC staff concludes, in this safety evaluation report, that the applicant’s descriptions, specifications, and analyses provide an adequate basis for safety and safeguards of facility operations and that operation of the facility does not pose an undue risk to worker and public health and safety."
Draft Safety Evaluation Report for the National Enrichment Facility in Eunice, New Mexico, May 26, 2005
Retrieve from ADAMS external link with Accession No. ML051390266

 

IEER report finds depleted uranium management plans for LES enrichment plant not adequate

A report prepared by Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) questions the depleted uranium management plans for the proposed LES enrichment plant in New Mexico. > View NIRS release Feb.23, 2005 external link · IEER release Feb. 23, 2005 external link

Costs and Risks of Management and Disposal of Depleted Uranium from the National Enrichment Facility Proposed to be Built in Lea County New Mexico by LES, by Arjun Makhijani and Brice Smith, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, November 24, 2004, Version for Public Release Redacted February 1, 2005
> Download full report: NIRS external link · IEER external link (400k PDF)

Update to Costs and Risks of Management and Disposal of Depleted Uranium from the National Enrichment Facility Proposed to be Built in Lea County New Mexico by LES, by Arjun Makhijani and Brice Smith, July 5, 2005, 28 pp.
> Download full report: IEER external link (818k PDF)

 

LES and AREVA sign Memorandum of Understanding for depleted uranium deconversion facility near proposed enrichment plant

Louisiana Energy Services (LES) and the nuclear energy services company AREVA, Inc., a subsidiary of the AREVA Group, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that could lead to the construction of a private uranium hexafluoride deconversion plant to support the proposed National Enrichment Facility (NEF) outside Eunice, New Mexico.
The facility would deconvert the NEF byproduct depleted uranium hexafluoride to depleted uranium oxide that can be disposed of safely. The oxide would then be sent to low-level radioactive waste facilities outside the State of New Mexico for storage and/or disposal. AREVA has been operating such a deconversion plant in Pierrelatte (France) for over 20 years. (LES/AREVA Feb. 3, 2005)

 

NRC finds that depleted uranium is low level waste

On January 18, 2005, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided that depleted uranium is a low level waste - and the DU therefore may be transfered to DOE for disposition.
> Memorandum and Order CLI-05-05: View HTML external link · Download PDF external link · Alternate Source PDF external link

In consequence, the NRC no longer admits the intervenors' contention that LES has no plausible strategy for DU disposal for its planned enrichment plant.
> View Memorandum Meeting SRM M050118 (Jan. 18, 2005) external link

In a brief dated Sep. 8, 2004, the NRC Staff had submitted that the depleted uranium tails produced by the LES enrichment facility meets the definition of low-level waste as provided in 10 C.F.R. § 61.2 and, additionally, meets the criteria for Class A waste pursuant to 10 C.F.R. § 61.55(a)(6). Transfer of the DU to DOE for dispositioning pursuant to the USEC Privatization Act were therefore a plausible strategy for dispositioning the LES tails. (NRC Staff brief on classification of depleted uranium as waste, Sep. 8, 2004)

> See also: Depleted Uranium: Waste or Resource?
> See also: Disposal of depleted uranium: USA

 

NRC releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement for LES enrichment plant for comment

Federal Register: November 9, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 216) p. 64983 (download full text external link)

The public comment period was extended until December 18, 2004.
> View NRC release Nov. 19, 2004 external link

The public comment period was extended further until January 7, 2005.
> View NRC release Dec. 22, 2004 external link
Federal Register: December 21, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 244) p. 76485 (download full text external link)

> Download: Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed National Enrichment Facility in Lea County, New Mexico - NUREG-1790 - Draft Report for Comment external link

> See also: Federal Register: September 17, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 180) p. 56104-56105 (download full text external link), and p. 56053-56054 (download full text external link)

EPA has no objection to the proposed action, see:
Federal Register: December 3, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 232) p. 70258 (download full text external link)

On Dec. 15, 2004, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS external link) and Public Citizen external link asked an adjudicatory board of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend the licensing case schedule as long as official documents relating to the case remain inaccessible due to a security review being conduced by the NRC, the primary regulator of the nuclear industry.

On Dec. 20, 2004, NRC staff requested that the licensing hearing scheduled to begin on Feb. 7, 2005, will be held closed to the public. Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) demand that the licensing hearing will be held in public.
> View Public Citizen release Dec. 20, 2004 external link

If citizen groups and New Mexico state agencies want to review documents about a proposed uranium enrichment plant near Eunice, a federal panel says they must agree to keep some information secret.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board this week issued an order saying outside groups must either sign agreements to keep certain information about the plant confidential or they won’t get to see unedited versions of documents about the plant. Officials say some documents in the company’s application contain sensitive information potentially useful to terrorists. (AP Dec. 23, 2004)

 

NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rules on LES enrichment plant project contentions

On July 19, 2004, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board granted standing to all parties that sought it in the quest to build a uranium enrichment facility near Eunice, N.M.: The New Mexico Attorney General's (AGNM) Office, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and the Nuclear Resource and Information Service (NIRS) and Public Citizen (PC) all filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to have standing in a hearing on the plant.
The panel also made decisions on which contentions, or concerns, would be pursued in future hearings:
What's Admissible:
  • A NMED contention report on radiation protection. "Specifically, the application is deficient in providing the technical bases for monitoring and assessing effluent discharge and in estimating occupational and public radiation doses," the order said.
  • A contention that LES's environmental report does not "adequately describe or weigh the environmental, social and economic impacts and costs of operating" the National Enrichment Facility.
  • A contention that LES's environmental report does not adequately address impacts of accidents involving natural gas transmission facilities.
  • A contention by the AGNM's Office about disposal security. This was consolidated with similar concerns from NIRS and Public Citizen.
  • A contention from the AGNM's Office that LES's cost estimates for disposing of depleted uranium are "suspect." The challenge is limited to cost estimates based on its contract with Urenco and those developed for a similar proposed facility in Louisiana, which was never built.
  • A contention from concerned parties that LES did not include a "complete or adequate assessment" of potential impacts of the proposed project on ground and surface water.
What's Not Admissible:
  • A contention from the NMED that LES would store depleted uranium in the form of uranium hexafluoride throughout the estimated 30-year life of the facility. However, the ASLB referred its ruling to the NRC.
  • The NMED and AGNM's office concern that LES will not have enough money to decommission the plant.
  • The AGNM's office contention that LES's facility would not be economically viable because the majority owners, which are foreign companies, could "simply abandon their investment."
  • The concern that the storage of large amounts of depleted uranium in steel cylinders outdoors would pose a "distinct environmental risk" to New Mexico. However, this ruling was referred to the NRC.
  • The AGNM's concern about LES's plans to dispose of nuclear waste from the facility.
(Odessa American July 20, 2004)

> Download LBP-04-14, LB Memorandum and Order, July 19, 2004 external link

 

NRC initiates public scoping process on Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for LES enrichment plant project

Written comments can be submitted by March 18, 2004.

Federal Register: February 4, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 23) p. 5374-5375 (download full text external link)

 

NRC announces Notice of Hearing on LES license application

On Jan. 30, 2004, NRC issued Order CLI-04-03, published in the Federal Register on Feb. 6. 2004:
Federal Register: February 6, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 25) p. 5873-5879 (download full text external link)

By April 6, 2004, any person whose interest may be affected by this proceeding and who wishes to participate as a party in the proceeding must file a written petition for leave to intervene.

 

LES submits license application for enrichment plant project in Lea County, New Mexico

On December 15, 2003, LES announced submission to the NRC of the license application for its uranium enrichment plant project near Eunice in Lea County, New Mexico. On Jan. 22, 2004, NRC staff notified LES that it had completed its acceptance review, and that the application and the included Environmental Report are acceptable for the staff to begin its detailed review.

> See NRC's document list external link

On Feb. 29, 2004, LES submitted Revision 1 to these documents.

 

LES selects Lea County, New Mexico, for enrichment plant project

On Sep. 2, 2003, Louisiana Energy Services (LES) formally announced its decision to build a $1.2 billion uranium enrichment facility in Lea County, New Mexico. The project is now called "The National Enrichment Facility (NEF)". The site is located at Eunice in south eastern New Mexico, near the Texas border.

 

LES considers site in Lea County, New Mexico

Louisiana Energy Services officials are gathering facts to decide between Trousdale County (Tennessee) and a new contender, Lea County, N.M., said Marshall Cohen of LES.
Reaction to the LES plant in the southeastern New Mexico county of Lea has been more enthusiastic, in part because nuclear-related industries are more common there. Leaders there approached LES after learning about Trousdale County opposition, based on potential health and safety issues.
Lea County leaders want to see LES locate near the town of Eunice, population 2,600. Officials have told a New Mexico newspaper that the county may issue up to $1.8 billion in revenue bonds for the LES project.
A group of Lea County leaders traveled to The Netherlands last month to visit a similar uranium enrichment plant there and returned with high marks for the operation, according to Associated Press reports. (Tennesseean Aug. 8, 2003)

 


LES Hartsville uranium enrichment plant project (Trousdale County, Tennessee)

NRC Docket No. 07003103

> See also:

 

LES abandons Tennessee site for enrichment plant project

On Aug. 27, 2003, LES announced "that the company has decided to end its effort to build a uranium enrichment facility in Tennessee."

 

NRC staff position on LES White Papers

While the NRC still withholds from public a Commission Paper *) describing its position towards Louisiana Energy Services' six White Papers, NRC staff on March 24, 2003, sent to LES a letter describing its position on major points raised in LES' papers. This letter is available through ADAMS external link.
*) staff paper SECY-02-0219 dated Dec. 19, 2002, and related Staff Requirements Memorandum - SRM issued by the Commission. NIRS has filed a FOIA request (FOIA/PA-2003-0204) to obtain the NRC SRM.

 

Cameco withdraws from LES enrichment plant project

On March 10, 2003, Cameco Corporation announced that it no longer plans to join Louisiana Energy Services LP (LES), the limited partnership that intends to build an enrichment facility in the US using Urenco Limited advanced gaseous centrifuge technology.

 

NRC requests public comments on LES' White Papers re centrifuge enrichment plant project

> Federal Register: October 2, 2002 (Vol. 67, No. 191) p. 61932-61933 (download full text external link)
"SUMMARY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is requesting comments from members of the public concerning a series of ``white papers'' presented to the NRC by the Louisiana Energy Services addressing licensing issues for a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility to be located in the area of Hartsville, Tennessee. The Commission will consider comments received in response to this notice in developing its position on the issues raised in these ``white papers.'' "
Comment period extended: Comments are due by November 13, 2002.
(see Federal Register: October 25, 2002 (Vol. 67, No. 207) p. 65613-65614: download full text external link)

> See also

 

NIRS: Louisiana Energy Services Seeks to Circumvent Public Involvement in Uranium Enrichment Plant Licensing Process

Louisiana Energy Services (LES) has asked the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a ruling that would bar the public from raising numerous relevant issues in public hearings related to the licensing of a uranium enrichment plant LES has proposed to build near Hartsville, Tennessee. The ruling sought by LES, and described as "unique" by one knowledgeable NRC staffer, would prohibit members of the public (including organizations and local and state government bodies) from addressing such issues as environmental justice, the financial qualifications of the LES consortium, the disposition of the thousands of tons of radioactive/hazardous waste the proposed plant would produce, the need for the plant, and others.
> NIRS release Sep. 12, 2002 external link · alternate source external link

 

LES picks Hartsville, Tennessee, site for enrichment plant project

Louisiana Energy Services (LES) has picked Hartsville, Tenn. as the location for its proposed gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant. LES, a consortium of companies that includes European enricher Urenco, vendor Westinghouse, and uranium giant Cameco, as well Exelon, Duke Energy, and Entergy, hopes to begin construction on the plant in late 2004 at the 250-acre site, where the Tennessee Valley Authority at one time planned to build four nuclear units. The $1.1-billion centrifuge plant will employ about 250 workers during normal operation. The consortium hopes to be producing 1-million SWU in 2007/2008, ramping up to 3-million SWU several years later. Hartsville, a town of about 2,500, is located about 40 miles northeast of Nashville in Trousdale County. LES is planning to submit a license application to NRC in late December to build the plant. (Platts, September 9, 2002)

 

LES issues finalist list of sites for enrichment plant project

On August 23, 2002, LES confirmed that it has notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it has a finalist list of two sites for location of a new uranium enrichment plant in the U.S. The two finalist sites are Hartsville, Trousdale County, Tennessee (aerial view external link) and Bellafonte, Montgomery County, Alabama *); both properties are near unfinished TVA nuclear plants and are released to the local economic development authorities by the Tennessee Valley Authority external link. (Business Wire Aug. 23, 2002 / Huntsville Times Aug. 24, 2002)
*) this appears to be erroneous; the site meant is Bellefonte, near Hollywood, Jackson County, Alabama (aerial view external link)

 

Cameco and Westinghouse Electric to participate in enrichment plant project

On July 22, 2002, Cameco Corporation external link announced that it has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) as an initial step toward entering a formal partnership to establish a $1.1 billion (US) enrichment facility to be built in the United States. The facility would use Urenco Limited's centrifuge. Under the terms of the MOA, Cameco will obtain, upon entering the partnership, an initial 20% interest in the project. Following receipt of the NRC licence and a final restructuring of the partnership, Cameco's interest will increase to 25%.
Also on July 22, 2002, LES announced that a MOA has also been signed with Westinghouse Electric Co.

 

Residents Protest Proposed Uranium Enrichment Plant

On July 15, 2002, a peaceful protest against the Louisiana Energy Services locating a nuclear enrichment plant in Unicoi, Tennessee, took place at Unicoi town hall. More than 50 protesters marched along Unicoi Drive with signs and chanted anti-nuclear themes as they circled town hall from 5:30 p.m. until about 6:10 p.m. Most of the protesters were from the newly formed "Citizens for the Preservation of The Valley Beautiful external link" and the State of Franklin Group — Sierra Club external link. (Johnson City Press, July 17, 2002)

 

LES outlines plans for new enrichment plant

The Louisiana Energy Services (LES) partnership hopes to begin producing enriched uranium in the U.S. by the end of 2006. The LES partners include European enricher Urenco and U.S. utilities Exelon, Duke Energy, and Entergy. The new plant, which would have a capacity of 3-million separative work units (SWU) a year, would be built at the site of an existing nuclear facility, to be selected by June 2002. (Platts March 19, 2002)
On July 8, 2002, it was confirmed that a possible site for the plant project could be located in Unicoi County in Eastern Tennessee; County Seat is Erwin, home of Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. external link. (Johnson City Press, July 9, 2002)

 

Urenco and US Utilities planning enrichment plant in US

The Urenco Group is set to seek regulatory approval in January 2002 to build the first new enrichment facility in the US in half a century. Its partners in the project, estimated at $1 billion, will be US energy conglomerates, Duke Power and Excelon. Other partners may be added.
The company expects to locate its new facility on current nuclear sites. It is considering Portsmouth, Ohio, where USEC has closed down one of its two plants, and it will also consider Paducah, Kentucky, the site of USEC's lone remaining facility. (Financial Times 6 Dec 2001)

A group of US utilities and other business partners is "actively seeking to deploy proven and competitive enrichment technology in the US" and may file a license application for a new uranium enrichment plant early in 2002. This was said by Exelon Chairman and Co-CEO Corbin McNeill and Duke Executive Vice President Michael Tuckman in a letter to President Bush. The letter goes on to ask that the administration not take any actions that would give USEC Inc any advantage in building a new plant in the US. (Platts, Oct 30, 2001)


LES Claiborne enrichment plant project (Louisiana)

LES enrichment plant project in Louisiana aborted

"On May 2, 1997, an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) released its final decision (LBP-97-08 external link) on the proposed Louisiana Energy Services (LES) Claiborne Enrichment Center project. The unheard-of verdict: license denied. The ASLB reached its precedent-setting decision on the final, and critical, environmental justice contention.

Earlier, the ASLB had ruled (LBP-96-25 external link) in favor of Citizens Against Nuclear Trash (CANT) that the LES consortium was not financially qualified to build and operate the plant, and was essentially a shell corporation apparently intended primarily to avoid potential liability for its parent companies (Urenco, Fluor Daniel, Duke Power and Northern States Power). And the ASLB had ruled (LBP-97-03 external link) that LES had underestimated its likely decommissioning costs by about 50% -- enough that its already dubious profit projections were shaken." (excerpt from NIRS Nuclear Monitor Extra external link).

On December 18, 1997, however, the NRC reversed the ASLB decision on financial qualifications and finds LES financially qualified. (View Memorandum and Order CLI-97-15 external link)

On April 3, 1998, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued another order affirming in part, reversing in part, and sending back for further proceedings various NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rulings. Acting on appeals from both LES and the NRC staff, the Commission reversed the May 1997 Licensing Board decision requiring a more thorough inquiry into possible racial discrimination in the siting of the facility. (View press release No.98-48 external link, view Memorandum and Order CLI-98-3 external link)

On April 22, 1998, LES withdrew its application to build the Claiborne Enrichment Center, after 7 years and US$ 34 million in costs due to "the inability of the [NRC] licensing process to operate in a predictable, efficient and timely manner". (UIC Weekly News Summary, 24 April 1998)
On April 30, 1998, NRC granted LES's motion to withdraw its license application and terminate the proceeding (view Order CLI-98-5 external link).

> View related article in NIRS Nuclear Monitor May 1998 external link

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