Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication - Current Issues (Other Countries)
(last updated 14 Nov 2011)
> See also Current Issues for
> See also directory of World Nuclear Fuel Facilities
Making nuclear fuel should be taken out of the hands of individual nations and put into multilateral groups in order to keep countries from secretly developing atomic weapons, a UN report said.
The report by a panel of experts to Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), comes ahead of a meeting in New York in May 2005 to review the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which gives the IAEA a mandate to verify that atomic programs in over 180 signatory nations are peaceful.
ElBaradei has warned that the NPT, in effect since 1970, has serious flaws at a time when the international community is worried about atomic programs in Iran and North Korea.
The world cannot continue allowing countries to develop the ability to make nuclear fuel that can also be used to make atomic bombs, ElBaradei told AFP in an interview in January.
"We just cannot continue business as usual that every country can build its own factories for separating plutonium or enriching uranium.
Then we are really talking about 30, 40 countries sitting on the fence with a nuclear weapons capability that could be converted into a nuclear weapon in a matter of months," ElBaradei said.
(AFP Feb. 23, 2005)
> View IAEA press briefing Feb. 22, 2005
> Download Report of the Expert Group: Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, INFCIRC/640 - 22 February 2005 (748k PDF)
UN atomic energy chief Mohamed ElBaradei has proposed that all countries lead by example by committing not to build facilities for uranium enrichment and nuclear reprocessing for five years.
ElBaradei told the Asahi Shimbun in its Jan. 7, 2005, edition that a global freeze on construction for uranium enrichment and nuclear reprocessing would be discussed at a May conference in New York on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Such a moratorium would have value as it would place "some limitation on the right of every country to develop a full (nuclear) fuel cycle," he said.
He said a global freeze could last for five years or "until we have completed our work on how we can have an international arrangement for the fuel cycle."
"We have enough capacity in the world for enrichment or reprocessing," said ElBaradei who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
(AFP Jan 7, 2005)
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Argentina, Brazil to build joint uranium enrichment plant
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Argentina resumes uranium enrichment at Pilcaniyeu
On Oct. 25, 2010, president Cristina Kirchner re-inaugurated the Pilcaniyeu uranium enrichment plant in Río Negro Province. First samples of enriched uranium will be obtained in September 2011. The plant had already been in operation in 1982/1983 but was halted for various reasons.
(Clarín Oct. 26, 2010)
Dioxitek S.A. UO2 plant, Córdoba
CNEA denies plan to relocate Dioxitek UO2 plant to Sierra Pintada (Mendoza)
The National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) informed that it has no plans to relocate the Dioxitek plant that is located in Córdoba, nor the area called "El Chichón", to the San Rafael uranium mine complex in Mendoza.
(Los Andes Nov. 11, 2012)
Dioxitek considers doubling of nuclear fuel production capacity
The chairman of Dioxitek S.A., Santiago Morazzo, announced that he is studying the construction of a new plant that will double its production to 300 tonnes per year, and it will be located outside the urban area of Córdoba.
(Clarín Aug. 1, 2007)
Environment defense foundation (FUNAM) denounces the environmental situation at the Dioxitek S.A. uranium dioxide plant in Córdoba
On July 25, the Environment defense foundation (FUNAM) denounced the environmental situation at the Dioxitek S.A. uranium dioxide plant in Córdoba, where more than 36,000 tonnes of radioactive waste are stored on-site without proper protective measures. FUNAM requested that the CNEA remedies the site immediately and the Municipality closes the plant of Dioxitek S.A..
Well water near Ezeiza nuclear center contaminated with uranium and other toxic substances
The well water that is being used by thousands of inhabitants of Ezeiza, Esteban Echeverría and La Matanza is contaminated with uranium and other toxic substances originating from the Centro Atómico Ezeiza (CAE).
This was revealed in a report prepared by geologist Fernando Diaz of the University of Buenos Aires.
74% of the wells sampled (36 out of 46) showed concentrations of uranium and nitrate in excess of WHO's preliminary drinking water guideline values (15 micrograms per litre, and 50 milligrams per litre, respectively). 1,618,069 people are living in the three localities affected. Nearly 47% of them (760,000) are not connected to the potable water network and are therefor using well water.
(Los Andes, March 19, 2005)
CNEA maintains that the uranium concentrations found (up to 56 µg/L) do not exceed the Argentinian standard of 100 (!) µg/L. (El Santacruzeño March 22, 2005)
A study performed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the Buenos Aires Province Secretariat of Environmental Policy (SPA) found that the uranium concentration in 10 of 51 samples taken exceeds 20 micrograms per liter, which is the limit established by the Province. The average concentration in those wells was 26 micrograms, reaching almost 35 micrograms per liter in one case. (Clarín Nov. 12, 2005)
> View details (SPA - in Spanish)
The Argentinian nuclear regulatory authority (ARN ) maintains that (a) the uranium detected was natural rather than enriched uranium, (b) the concentrations found are within the range of values naturally found in the area, (c) the Argentinian standard of 100 µg U/L is appropriate for radiation protection - ignoring the fact that the WHO provisional guideline of 15 µg/L was established for the chemical toxicity of uranium.
> See also Greenpeace Argentina (in Spanish)
After reiterated complaints, the Buenos Aires Province Secretariat of Environmental Policy is planning to investigate if "genetic mutations" exist in residents living near the Centro Atómico Ezeiza.
(Diario Uno de Mendoza June 26, 2006)
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN), through its director Raúl Racana, maintained that the waters of the Buenos Aires agglomeration neighbouring the Nuclear center of Ezeiza, are not contaminated. He assured that there "exists total security for the population" of Ezeiza and the environs.
The position of the ARN was set out to Clarín as a result of a special report published Sunday 19 of July, where it was revealed that the investigation on the possible contamination of the Puelche aquifer with uranium takes up to 9 years of delay. According to a report ordered by the judge of the cause, the aquifers would have received uranium residues of the Nuclear center, becoming a serious risk for approximately one million inhabitants of Ezeiza, Esteban Echeverría and La Matanza.
(Clarín July 30, 2009)
Brazil in negotiations on export of enriched uranium to China, South Korea, and France
The Brazilian government is already in negotiations on the sale of fuel for nuclear plants in China, South Korea, and France. However, no official decision has been made yet on the uranium enrichment for export purposes.
(O Estado Feb. 7, 2011)
Brazil to construct two uranium conversion plants
Brazil will invest Real 3,000 million (about US$ 1,807 million) in the construction of two uranium conversion plants, according to Edisao Lobao, Minister of Mines and Energy.
The new plants will allow Brazil to cover the whole nuclear fuel production process in domestic facilities. So far, the uranium mined in Brazil is sent to Canada and France for conversion.
(EFE Feb. 4, 2011)
Argentina, Brazil to build joint uranium enrichment plant
On Feb. 22, 2008, the presidents of Argentina and Brazil agreed to create a commission on pursuing joint uranium enrichment for peaceful nuclear energy purposes. (AP Feb. 22, 2008)
Commissioning of Iperó conversion plant to start:
Commissioning of the Usina de Gás de Urânio (Usexa) uranium conversion plant in Iperó is to start within the next weeks. Full production will begin in 2012. The capacity of the plant, run by the navy, is 40 tonnes of uranium [hexafluoride?] per year.
(El Diario July 10, 2011)
Three unreported spills - due to "imperfections" in the equipment - reveiled at Resende enrichment plant
According to internal email communications, three incidents at the Resende enrichment plant have not been reported to the authorities. One of them was a release of UO2 dust on July 14, 2009, that was contained within the facility. The other events were chemical releases.
Director of Nuclear Fuel Production of the FCN, Samuel Fayad Filho said, he recognizes "imperfections" in the equipment and says that "all measures had been taken" in relation to the detected problems.
(Correio Braziliense Oct. 19, 2011)
Brazil to boost uranium enrichment capacity at Resende
Brazil's uranium enrichment capacity will be expanded to an industrial scale this year to meet the needs of the country's current nuclear power program, state-owned nuclear development company Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil, or INB, said Tuesday (Jan. 18).
INB is investing $700 million on converters and centrifuges that will be installed in coming weeks at its uranium enrichment plant at Resende, Rio de Janeiro state, in southeast Brazil, said INB director Samuel Fayad Filho at a nuclear energy seminar in Rio de Janeiro.
(Dow Jones Newswires Jan. 18, 2011)
Resende enrichment plant granted operating license
On Jan. 5, 2009, the National Commission of Nuclear Energy (CNEN) granted to the Nuclear Industries of Brazil (INB) the Initial Operating Authorization (AOI) for its uranium enrichment plant located in its unit in Resende (Rio De Janeiro).
(INB Jan. 8, 2009)
First unit of Resende enrichment plant inaugurated
On May 5, 2006, Minister of Science and Technology, Sérgio Rezende, inaugurated the first unit of the Resende enrichment plant run by Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB). The completion of the plant is scheduled for 2010, at total investment costs of R$ 550 million (US$ 267 million). Once in full operation, the plant could provide 60% of the fuel for the Angra reactors.
The plant uses national technology developed by the Brazilian Navy. The Brazilian ultracentrifugal machines are almost four times more economic than those used in the United States and in Europe.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demanded total visualization of the equipment, in order to guarantee that it would not be used for the production of nuclear weapons.
(O Estado May 5, 2006)
Startup of Resende enrichment plant deferred further
The commercial startup of the Resende enrichment plant, scheduled for Jan. 17, 2006, had to be delayed further. The plant is running in test mode since August 2005. In addition, the completion of the first stage of the plant (114,000 SWU/year) has been postponed from 2008 to 2010 for budgetary restrictions.
(O Estado Jan. 16, 2006)
Startup of Resende enrichment plant deferred until 2006
On Sep. 5, 2005, the minister of Science and Technology, Sergio Rezende, informed that the inauguration of the Resende enrichment plant will be deferred until 2006.
(Agencia Brasil, Sep. 5, 2005)
Strike paralyzes Resende enrichment and nuclear fuel plant
On Dec. 16, 2004, the employees of the Resende enrichment plant and nuclear fuel plant initiated a strike for higher wages, paralyzing the fuel production and the uranium enrichment tests.
The tests are essential for the planned commencement of commercial enrichment operation in March 2005.
(La Prensa, Dec. 17, 2004)
Brazil and IAEA reach agreement in principle on inspections at Resende enrichment plant
"We have been able to reach an agreement in principle with the Brazilian government on a safeguards approach to verify the enrichment facilities in Brazil, at the Resende facility. An approach which will enable us to do credible inspections but at the same time take care of Brazil's need to protect certain commercial sensitivity inside the facility. That approach has been, as I have said, agreed on principle and I expect in the next couple of weeks, to be finalized in a formal way." (IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei in a press briefing on Nov. 25, 2004)
Brazil refuses IAEA access to Resende enrichment plant
The Brazilian government has refused to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to examine a facility for enriching uranium under construction near Rio de Janeiro, according to Brazilian officials and diplomats in Vienna, home of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Brazil maintains that the facility will produce low-enriched uranium for use in power plants, not the highly enriched material used in nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, Brazil refuses to let IAEA inspectors see equipment in the plant, citing a need to protect proprietary information.
(Washington Post April 4, 2004)
IAEA wants access to Brazil's uranium enrichment plant
The U.N. nuclear watchdog is negotiating with the Brazilian government to ensure that a new uranium enrichment facility due to begin operating next year is properly safeguarded. Brazil has no safeguards agreement with the IAEA covering the facility, which is still under construction. This means the IAEA has no official right to inspect it when it goes live.
(Reuters Dec. 19, 2003)
Brazil makes further announcement to begin uranium enrichment shortly
On Oct. 6, 2003, the minister of Science and Technology, Roberto Amaral, announced that Brazil will start enrichment of uranium from 2004. It is the goal of the government to achieve by 2010 production of 60% of the enriched uranium required by the nuclear power plants Angra 1 and 2. From 2014, Brazil could become an exporter and could also supply the fuel for a possible Angra 3 unit, on which no decision has been made yet. (O Estado 6 Oct. 2003)
Brazil opens Resende enrichment plant
From 2003, Brazil hopes to cover some 95 percent of its uranium enrichment requirements with the new Resende enrichment plant, which was opened on December 11, 2002.
(Reuters Dec. 11, 2002)
Startup of Resende enrichment plant deferred further
INB - the state-owned uranium mining and enrichment company - expects to begin enriching uranium in early 2003. A company spokesman said INB 'should begin the first round of production as early as January or as late as March'.
(WNA News Briefing 02.46)
Resende enrichment plant to start commercial operation
INB will start commercial production of enriched uranium at Resende in July 2002. The initial production will be 20 tonnes per year. (O Globo May 26, 2002)
Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) was expected to sign a contract with the Brazilian navy to build a 100 000 SWU/year gas centrifuge enrichment plant at Resende. The Brazilian government has reportedly agreed to pay 250 million reals (US$130 million) to fund the project. The plant would supply about half the enrichment services needed by Angra-1 and -2, and Brazil currently has no plans to export enrichment services. INB plans to have the first 20 000 SWU/year cascade in operation by the end of 2001. (UI News Briefing 00.29)
Russia and South Africa eye cooperation in conversion and enrichment of uranium
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South Africa releases draft Nuclear Energy Policy and Strategy for public comment
On August 13, 2007, the Department of Minerals and Energy released its draft Nuclear Energy Policy and Strategy for public comment.
"Government, through Necsa, shall undertake and lead the
development of uranium conversion capabilities as part of the beneficiation of uranium. Private sector participation in the conversion process will be promoted."
> Download Nuclear Energy Policy and Strategy for the Republic of South Africa, Draft for Public Comment, July 2007 (231k PDF)
"Government, through Necsa, shall investigate the viability of developing its own uranium enrichment capabilities and will simultaneously actively seek to acquire established uranium enrichment technologies to ensure security of supply."
"Government, through Necsa shall design a strategy to develop nuclear fuel fabrication capabilities and will in the intervening period actively seek to obtain established fuel fabrication technologies to ensure security of supply."
South Africa is expected to begin enriching uranium by 2017, Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa CEO Rob Adam said on June 25, 2007.
"It could even be in five years, but definitely in ten years' time," he said.
South Africa, which dismantled its nuclear weapons programme during the 1990s, indicated in 2006 that it was considering enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.
However, Department of Minerals and Energy director-general Sandile Nogxina stressed that any uranium enrichment taking place in the country would be under government control.
A private company could have equity in an enriching initiative, but not a controlling stake, he said.
(Mining Weekly June 25, 2007)
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Heathgate Resources proposes to build uranium conversion plant at its Beverley uranium mine (South Australia)
Heathgate Resources wants to build a uranium conversion plant at its Beverley mine to add greater value to the raw material it mines at the site.
Heathgate would need State and Federal Government approval to build a conversion plant but has not raised the issue yet.
Heathgate Resources is owned by the giant American defence and nuclear group General Atomics.
General Atomics also owns 50 per cent of a uranium conversion company called ConverDyn , which has its head office in Colorado.
Heathgate president David Williams said if a conversion plant was to be built by Heathgate it would need to act as a centre for all Australian uranium miners to be economically viable.
Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the Government was opposed to the development of a nuclear power industry, other than uranium mining and milling.
(The Advertiser Sep. 26, 2009)
> View Current Issues for Converdyn's Metropolis conversion plant (Illinois)
Plan for enrichment plant in Australia floated
The company Nuclear Fuel Australia Limited is studying the feasibility of a uranium enrichment plant which could be operational by 2015. The plant - modelled on Urenco's National Enrichment Facility in the U.S. - would cost A$2.5 billion to build, with construction able to take place from 2010-15. (AAP June 14, 2007)
Urenco interested in building enrichment plant in Australia
Urenco is interested in building an enrichment plant in Australia, saying Australia would be a good base for servicing the growing Asia-Pacific market for nuclear power fuel. Urenco would be interested in assessing the economics of building an enrichment plant in Australia if it were invited to do so.
Areva, however, ruled out interest in investing in uranium enrichment in Australia, saying it made little commercial sense unless the nation was prepared to go for nuclear energy.
(Australian May 27, 2006)
Uranium enrichment in Australia?
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has opened a new front in the nuclear debate, saying Australia needs to consider whether it should enrich uranium.
(The Age May 21, 2006)
> See also USEC: Development of Laser-based enrichment technology
> View Silex's ASX announcements
Silex website hacked
On July 2, 2008, several pages of Silex' website were hacked. Hopefully, the company protects its classified enrichment technology better than its website!
GE signs agreement with Silex to develop laser-based uranium enrichment technology
GE Energy's nuclear business has signed an exclusive agreement with Silex Systems Limited , an Australia-based technology innovator, to license the technology and develop the company's next generation low enriched uranium manufacturing process in the United States.
The transaction is subject to, among other things, governmental approvals and regulatory controls on the design, construction and operation of the process.
The agreement provides for a phased approach to the development of the Silex technology and the potential construction of a test loop, pilot plant, and a full-scale, commercial enrichment facility. These operations would be built at GE's existing nuclear energy headquarters in Wilmington, N.C. or another suitable location in the United States.
(GE May 22, 2006)
On October 4, 2006, Silex announced that GE Energy's nuclear business and Silex Systems Limited have received the U.S. government authorizations required to proceed with an agreement granting GE exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Silex's laser-based uranium enrichment technology.
> See also: GE Silex laser isotope separation enrichment demonstration facility project in Wilmington, North Carolina
Silex announces completion of Uranium Enrichment Direct Measurement Program
"Silex Systems Limited is pleased to announce that the SILEX Uranium Enrichment Direct Measurement (DM) Program has been successfully completed. The results achieved support the attractive economics of earlier estimates. [...] With the completion of the DM program, attention is now focused on securing an agreement with an industry partner to assist in the scale-up of development activities leading to the commercial deployment of our technology." (Silex May 19, 2005)
Greenpeace Australia reveals government support for SILEX uranium enrichment technology
On Nov. 30, 2004, Greenpeace Australia released a report exposing the Australian Government's support of the classified SILEX uranium enrichment technology and revealing the nuclear proliferation risk of this technology.
> Download Secrets, Lies and Uranium Enrichment, The classified Silex project at Lucas Heights , Greenpeace, November 2004 (1.6M PDF)
Silex completes silicon laser enrichment pilot plant, continues work on uranium enrichment
Silex announces the completion and commissioning of its silicon laser enrichment pilot plant. With the pilot plant, Silex hopes "to demonstrate satisfactory economics for the process". Silicon enrichment is believed to be of value for the computer chip industry, allowing for higher heat dissipation in the chips.
Silex furthermore continues to study the economics of uranium laser enrichment. A related program is expected to be completed by early 2005.
(Silex July 5, 2004)
USEC ends funding of research on SILEX enrichment process and focuses on centrifuge technology
On April 30, 2003, USEC Inc. announced that it is ending its funding for research and development of the SILEX laser-based uranium enrichment process. USEC has been funding R&D on the SILEX process since 1996, when the Company signed an agreement with Silex Systems Limited in Australia. USEC will now focus all of its advanced technology resources on the demonstration and deployment of USEC’s American Centrifuge uranium enrichment technology. (USEC April 30, 2003)
USEC confirms continued support for development of Silex laser enrichment technology
USEC Inc, the US-based partner in the SILEX uranium enrichment
development program, has confirmed its commitment to continue to
support the program despite USEC's announcement regarding the deployment of
US centrifuge technology. (Silex June 20, 2002)
In spite of these assurances, however, shares in Silex Systems dived more than 40 per cent on June 20, 2002. (The Age June 21, 2002)
SILEX uranium enrichment technology classified
On 20 June 2001, Silex Systems Ltd (Silex) announced that its laser-based SILEX uranium enrichment technology has been officially classified by both the U.S. and Australian governments.
The new SILEX technology (Separation of Isotopes by Laser EXcitation) is being developed jointly by Silex and US company