Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant project (USA) - Current Issues
(last updated 6 Mar 2019)
> See also Current Issues for
(formerly "National Enrichment Facility")
NRC Docket No. 07003103
NRC License No. SNM-2010
Aerial view: Google Maps · MSRMaps
> See also:
Groups raise concern over proliferation hazard from Urenco USA's High assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) project:
The German section of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and several other anti-nuclear groups raised their concern over the increasing proliferation hazard from Urenco USA's proposal for the construction of a High assay low enriched uranium unit.
> View: IPPNW Germany release Mar. 5, 2019 (in German)
Urenco USA considers construction of high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) unit:
On 5 February 2019, Urenco USA Inc., announced its capability in the provision of high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU). HALEU (U235 enriched up to 19.75 per cent) is a subcategory of LEU (U235 enriched up to no more than 20.00 per cent).
A new program at Urenco covers the production of HALEU. Urenco's advanced gas centrifuge technology is capable of producing the full range of LEU enrichments, including HALEU.
Several Urenco enrichment facilities are already licensed to produce at enrichments above 5% U235 in line with today's nuclear industry market requirements. Urenco is now exploring the construction of a dedicated HALEU unit at the Urenco USA facility. Urenco is progressing the design engineering and related licensing activities to support this project.
NRC determines that violation of fire protection regulations occured at Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant
"[...] from February 2 to June 5, 2018, there were several instances where the licensee did not prevent the use of OTR [over-the-road] semi-tractors with fuel quantity (1135 L or 300 gallons) exceeding the limits of IROFS36c to move semi-trailers with UF6 cylinders into the CRDB [Cylinder Receipt and Dispatch Building]."
(NRC Integrated Inspection Report Oct. 16, 2018)
Irregularities identified at overpack of cylinder holding enriched uranium hexafluoride supplied by Urenco USA
On July 23, 2018, UUSA Logistics Planning received notification from GNF-A shipping
that an UX-30 overpack of a Type 30B cylinder filled with enriched uranium hexafluoride had two 2'' ball lock pins not in place upon entering the GNF-A site.
Upon noticing 2 of the 10 ball locking pins were missing, the pins were replaced and
returned to a normal conforming condition prior to any further transport.
> Download: 60 Day report, Urenco USA , Sep. 19, 2018 (PDF)
On May 30, 2018, Louisiana Energy Services, LLC, (LES) sent a License Amendment Request (LAR) to NRC, requesting permission to feed UF6 greater than 0.72 wt% 235U; but less than 1 wt% 235U. Detailed documents on the request, including the basis for the change, are withheld from public disclosure, however.
> Download LES letter, May 30, 2018
[possibly this must be seen in connection with Urenco's announcement to enrich reprocessed uranium? See here]
On Oct. 25, 2018, NRC notified LES that the application does not contain sufficient technical information; NRC sent LES an undisclosed Request for Supplemental Information.
> Download: NRC letter Oct. 25, 2018 (PDF)
On Nov. 2, 2018, LES withdrew its license amendment request.
> Download: LES letter to NRC, Nov. 2, 2018 (PDF)
In addition, on July 5, 2018, LES applied for an export license to return heeled cylinders with a max. enrichment of 1 wt% back to Cameco's Port Hope, Ontario, conversion plant (heels are the highly radioactive residue remaining in the cylinder after unloading of the uranium hexafluoride).
> Download: Export license application, July 5, 2018 (PDF)
NRC finds undisclosed security violation at Urenco USA enrichment plant
> Download NRC Inspection Report, Jan. 4, 2018 (PDF)
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"During a self initiated review, ISA [Integrated Safety Analysis] Staff performed a preliminary review of the ISA to determine whether or not there was a chemical safety issue concerning the proximity of combustible fuel to the yard tractors/shuttle lifts that UUSA's [Urenco USA] Logistics organization uses to move UF6 [Uranium Hexa Fluoride] cylinders around outside on site.
ISA staff determined that the ISA lacked sufficient information regarding the proximity of combustible fuel to the IROFS36c [Item Relied Upon for Safety] controlled yard tractors/shuttle lifts. ISA determined that revisions to one, or more, of the applicable IROFS Boundary Definition Documents was necessary to establish operator actions to ensure that the volumetric fuel limit is not compromised due to the proximity of other fuel sources, therefore UUSA is conservatively making this report.
UUSA remains in a safe and stable condition. UUSA Logistics has issued a stop work that prohibits applicable cylinders from traveling where proximity to combustible fuel could occur."
> Download: Event Notification Report for January 26, 2018, Event Number: 53183 , U.S. NRC
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant: NRC proposes US$ 35,000 penalty
"[...] UUSA [URENCO USA] discovered a product cylinder that had been introduced to the process inadvertently as a new or washed cylinder when it in fact was a heeled cylinder. The discrepancy caused the incorrect IROFS [Items Relied On For Safety] to be applied when connecting the cylinder to the process; [...] A criticality DID NOT occur. [...]"
The event occurred on Sep. 7, 2017 but was not discovered until 1511 MDT on Oct. 30, 2017.
> View: Event Notification Report for November 1, 2017, Event Number: 53046 , U.S. NRC
> View: Event Notification Report for November 3, 2017, Event Number: 53046 , U.S. NRC (Update)
On Apr. 12, 2018, NRC issued in Integrated Inspection Report indentifying a related apparent violation involving "the failure to implement administrative criticality controls for a product cylinder".
> Download: Integrated Inspection Report 70-3103/2018-002, Apr. 12, 2018 , U.S. NRC (PDF)
On June 14, 2018, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to Urenco USA, categorizing the violation Severity Level III [a very rare occurence!] and considering a civil penalty of US$ 35,000.
> Download: Notice of Violation, June 15, 2018 (PDF)
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"Last week material from the pH adjustment tanks on the LECTS [Liquid Effluent Collection and Transfer System] slab tanks was moved into the SCDT [Small Component Decontamination Train] without the use of administrative criticality control IROFS54a and 54b [Items Relied On For Safety]."
> View: Event Notification Report for August 9, 2017, Event Number: 52886 , U.S. NRC
In May, Urenco was awarded a US$ 500 million contract to supply enriched uranium for TVA's reactors Watts Bar and Sequoyah. These are special nuclear power reactors that produce tritium required for nuclear weapons as a by-product. In view of Vienna risk researcher Wolfgang Liebert, this constitutes a violation of the non-proliferation treaty. German Member of Parliament and former environmental minister Jürgen Tritten says that this violates the tripartite treaty of Almelo which is the basis for the operation of Urenco.
(Tagesschau June 14, 2017)
Urenco sees no obstacles to any deliveries of enriched uranium for the use in special nuclear power reactors that produce tritium required for nuclear weapons as a by-product. Due to its short half-life of twelve years, approximately 6% of the tritium in the U.S. nuclear warheads must be replaced on an annual basis.
The current U.S. policy prevents the use of foreign technology for nuclear weapons, but this might be watered down, as the United States - after the shutdown of their gaseous diffusion plants - no longer have the capacity for the enrichment of uranium.
(Tagesschau May 10, 2017)
NRC to impose civil penalty on Urenco for multiple security violations at its USA enrichment plant
Based on an Inspection Report issued on May 29, 2015, "documenting the initial review of events associated with the security program" and subsequent investigations, NRC identified (undisclosed) apparent violations at LES' Eunice enrichment facility, based on which it proposes the imposition of a civil penalty.
> Download: NRC cover letter to LES, EA-15-218 , Mar. 3, 2017 (PDF)
Note: The attached Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty and the Severity Level and Civil Penalty Assessment are withheld from public disclosure.
> Download: NRC cover letter to Mr. Pieter van der Heide, IA-16-029 , Mar. 3, 2017 (PDF)
Note: The attached Notice of Violation and further documents are withheld from public disclosure.
NRC finds loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"[...] on July 8, 2013, and October 11, 2016, the licensee failed to obtain prior NRC approval for changes to specific sections of the SAR [Safety Analysis Report] Chapter 5 that resulted in modifying the current values for criticality-based analysis in a less
conservative direction. Specifically, the licensee failed to obtain prior NRC approval for a change to SAR Section 5.1.2, which modified the enrichment value used for criticality-based analysis from 6% 235U to 1% 235U. This modification resulted in a less conservative analytical result for safe mass values. Additionally, the licensee failed to obtain prior NRC approval for changes to SAR Table 5.1-2, which modified the value used for criticality-based analysis from a small, finite mass limit (730g 235U) to a mass that was essentially infinite and therefore not controlled."
Urenco USA receives UF6 cylinder with missing valve cap gasket
On January 29, 2016, Urenco USA received (from an unidentified supplier) a shipment of six 30B containers, each with a heel of enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6). On April 9, as an operator was preparing to connect one of the cylinders to process systems, it was discovered that the valve cap on one of the cylinders had no Teflon disk (cap gasket), as would be expected.
There is high confidence that no leakage occurred during shipment of the cylinder.
Cylinder was transported in a UX-30 over-pack approved per USA_9196_B(U)F-96
Rev32. TID's applied to this over-pack verified no tampering with the over-pack or
cylinder. Receipt checks revealed no external contamination.
(Urenco USA 60 day report to NRC, June 9, 2016)
Occupational radiation doses of Urenco USA employees too low to meter?
"[...] in 2013, the Louisiana Energy Services, LLC, facility stated that it is no longer required to report since there are no individuals expected to receive doses that require monitoring."
> Download: Occupational Radiation Exposure at Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors and Other Facilities 2014 , Forty-Seventh Annual Report, NUREG-0713 Vol. 36, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, April 2016
NRC issues inspection reports for new cascades at Urenco USA enrichment plant
On June 5, 2015, NRC announced the availability of inspection reports prior to the commencement of operations of the new cascades 5.1 through 5.7.
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 108 (Friday, June 5, 2015) p. 32184-32185 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044
Urenco USA to slow down expansion of New Mexico enrichment plant from 2016
In 2014 Urenco completed Phase II of its capacity expansion project at Urenco USA. The first 50% of Phase III capacity is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of 2015, increasing site capacity to 4,700 tSW/a [4.7 million SWU/a]. A slowed installation of the remaining capacity is planned to start in 2016 to reflect the current market conditions, with the total anticipated capacity [5.7 million SWU/a] not being reached until into the next decade.
(Urenco Mar. 5, 2015)
On Dec. 15, 2014, Urenco USA requested a license amendment increasing the allowed amount of depleted UF6 stored on site from 15,727 type 48Y cylinders to 25,000 type 48Y cylinders.
> Download: Urenco request Dec. 15, 2014 (514k PDF)
> See also: NRC approves massive increase of amount of depleted UF6 stored onsite at Urenco USA enrichment plant
Goldman Sachs stored unenriched uranium hexafluoride at Urenco USA enrichment plant
> View Goldman Sachs to wind down uranium trading business - after U.S. Senate report sheds some light on it, raising a number of issues
Urenco USA requests significant increase in possession mass limits and permission to utilize high assay tails as enrichment feed
On June 17, 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.
- to utilize high assay tails (depleted natural uranium) as feed material for the
- to increase the possession mass limit for both natural and depleted uranium from 136,120,000 kg to a new limit of 251,000,000 kg,
- to increase the enriched uranium possession mass limit from 545,000 kg, to 2,180,000 kg
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 142 (Thursday, July 24, 2014) p. 43099-43104 (download full text )
> Download Redacted - Supplement to License Amendment Request for Capacity Expansion of URENCO USA Facility , June 17, 2014 (ML14171A092)
> Download License Amendment Application form, Jan. 7, 2015 (ML15028A138)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044
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 )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264
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 (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 )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264
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 , 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."
NRC issues License Amendment for capacity expansion of Urenco USA's Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
On March 23, 2015, NRC issued the license amendment approving the capacity expansion of Urenco USA's Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a.
NRC issues Environmental Assessment for capacity expansion of Urenco USA's Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 53 (Thursday, March 19, 2015) p. 14416-14417 (download full text )
> Download Environmental Assessment, March 2015 (3MB PDF)
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 )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044
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
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
> Download: Supplemental Environmental Report for Facility Capacity Expansion Request, September 2012: Part 1 (31MB PDF) · Part 2 (20MB PDF)
> Download: National Enrichment Facility, Environmental Report, Revision 5, June 2005 (52.9MB PDF)
> Download: Supplemental Environmental Report for Facility Capacity Expansion Request - July 2013 Revision 4c (48MB PDF)
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 )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264
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 )
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 , Feb. 28, 2011 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML110770438)
> Download 2011 LES Licensee Performance Letter and Enclosure , 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 )
> View docket NRC-2008-0055 (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 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
On Dec. 11, 2007, the Court denied the petitions filed by NIRS and Public Citizen.
> Download Court Opinion No. 06-1301, Dec. 11, 2007 (PDF)
Public Interest groups file brief to challenge license for proposed New Mexico uranium enrichment plant
> View Public Citizen Release April 3, 2007
> Download NIRS and Public Citizen brief (4.6M PDF)
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
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 (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
Federal Register: June 20, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 117) p. 35461-35462 (download full text )
> Download: Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed National Enrichment Facility in Lea County, New Mexico - Final Report (NUREG-1790), June 2005
> Download: Safety Evaluation Report for the National Enrichment Facility in Lea County, New Mexico, Louisiana Energy Services (NUREG-1827), June 2005
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 (Acc. No. ML051590496) · via NIRS (PDF)
> View NIRS release Jun 8, 2005
The full text of the LB memorandum was released on June 15, 2005:
> Download LBP-05-13 Memorandum, June 10, 2005: via ADAMS (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
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 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 · IEER release Feb. 23, 2005
- Citing research performed by the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI), the report concludes that health risks from uranium may be more varied than reflected in current Federal policy.
- Assessing the depleted uranium management cost estimates, the report finds that the depleted uranium from the proposed New Mexico enrichment plant may become a multi-billion dollar taxpayer liability without a hefty financial guarantee.
- Analyzing the regulatory aspects of depleted uranium disposal, the report finds indications that Nuclear Regulatory Commission and corporate options for DU disposal risk long-term violation of health and environmental standards.
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 · IEER (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 (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)
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 · Download PDF · Alternate Source PDF
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)
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 )
The public comment period was extended until December 18, 2004.
> View NRC release Nov. 19, 2004
The public comment period was extended further until January 7, 2005.
> View NRC release Dec. 22, 2004
Federal Register: December 21, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 244) p. 76485 (download full text )
> Download: Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed National Enrichment Facility in Lea County, New Mexico - NUREG-1790 - Draft Report for Comment
> See also: Federal Register: September 17, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 180) p. 56104-56105 (download full text ), and p. 56053-56054 (download full text )
EPA has no objection to the proposed action, see:
Federal Register: December 3, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 232) p. 70258 (download full text )
On Dec. 15, 2004, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS ) and Public Citizen 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
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:
(Odessa American July 20, 2004)
- 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.
> Download LBP-04-14, LB Memorandum and Order, July 19, 2004
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 )
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 )
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
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)
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 .
*) 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 )
"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
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 )
> 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 ·
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 ) 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 .
(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 )
Cameco and Westinghouse Electric to participate in enrichment plant project
On July 22, 2002, Cameco Corporation 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 " and the State of Franklin Group — Sierra Club .
(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. . (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 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 ) 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 )
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 )
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
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 )
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 , view Memorandum
and Order CLI-98-3 )
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 ).
> View related article in NIRS Nuclear Monitor May 1998