Current Issues: New Uranium Conversion/Enrichment and Nuclear Fuel Plant Projects - USA
(last updated 6 Jan 2021)
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State legislators contemplate uranium conversion facilities in Wyoming
Legislators are investigating ways to allow for potential uranium conversion facilities in Wyoming, the next step in the development of enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear power reactors.
The Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee , which chooses mineral-related topics to be considered in next year's legislative session, also decided at a meeting Monday (Oct. 10) to update obsolete language in Wyoming law that addresses potential nuclear waste storage in the state.
Wyoming's uranium industry is confined to mining, with four companies that dig precious yellowcake from the ground. After that, the uranium is shipped out of the state.
In an attempt to add value before that product leaves the state's borders, the Wyoming Business Council is investigating uranium conversion facilities.
(Star-Tribune Oct. 15, 2016)
Russia's atomic agency Rosatom is in talks to build a uranium enrichment plant in the United States, its chief executive was quoted as saying on Wednesday (Aug. 25).
In an interview with the Financial Times, Sergei Kiriyenko declined to provide details on the U.S. deal.
(Reuters Aug. 25, 2010)
Mitsubishi and Areva to build nuclear fuel fabrication plant in USA
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) and Areva confirmed they are doing necessary preparation to jointly invest (MHI 50% and Areva 50%) in a dedicated nuclear fuel fabrication facility to be built in the United States.
(Areva, Mitsubishi Feb. 18, 2009)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is holding a workshop on February 22, 2008, with stakeholders to seek comment on the proposed quantity thresholds of uranium hexafluoride and uranium tetrafluoride either used for, or derived from, the conversion of uranium oxide to uranium hexafluoride and/or for the deconversion of depleted uranium hexafluoride to an oxide.
> Download NRC announcement Jan. 16, 2008 (ADAMS ML080090098)
> View here
Start up of Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility project for re-enrichment of depleted uranium tails deferred to late 2020s
On June 5, 2020, Silex Systems Limited announced the execution of an amendment to the 2016 Sales Agreement between Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) involving changes to certain provisions and timelines which re-align the agreement to current market conditions.
The amendment ensures the agreement between the DOE and GLE remains in effect through to the anticipated recovery in the nuclear fuel markets, allowing GLE sufficient time to complete its project plan for the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility (PLEF). Subject to completion of the technology commercialisation project, regulatory approvals and prevailing market conditions, it is anticipated the PLEF will commence commercial operations in the late 2020's.
The tails re-enrichment project at the PLEF would continue over several decades, resulting in the production of natural grade uranium which could then be sold into the expanding global uranium market at a production rate of around 2,000 metric tons of natural uranium in the form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) per year.
DOE sells depleted uranium tails for re-enrichment at Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility project
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to sell depleted uranium from the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant to enrich at a new state-of-the-art facility in western Kentucky.
Construction and operation of the $1 billion facility by GE-Hitachi's Global Laser Enrichment is estimated to bring approximately 800 to 1,200 jobs to the local community.
(WKMS Nov. 10, 2016)
Depressed uranium market hampering project of laser enrichment plant for tails re-enrichment at Paducah
Market conditions and investor changes appear to have slowed progress toward a planned laser uranium enrichment facility near the U.S. Department of Energy's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
Local, state and federal officials applauded the announcement three years ago by Global Laser Enrichment, a subsidiary of GE-Hitachi, that it had entered into exclusive negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy for the sale of the depleted uranium hexafluoride inventory and potential construction of a commercial uranium tails processing facility in Paducah. [...]
Earlier this year, GE-Hitachi announced its desire to reduce its equity interest in GLE, according to information on its website.
In Silex's 2016 annual report, Michael Goldsworthy, CEO/managing director, noted: "The global nuclear fuel markets remained depressed during the year and continued to create a challenging business environment for Silex and GLE."
In a restructuring agreement, Silex has an option to become a shareholder in GLE and will take the lead in searching for new investors, according to Goldsworthy. [...]
The process of transferring the land for the GLE facility from state to local control for use in economic development is underway, according to officials with the Paducah Area Community Reuse Organization. [...]
Paducah Mayor Gayle Kaler said she would still like to see the GLE project materialize but understands the current economic realities.
"It's not dead (GLE)," she said. "It's that uranium prices are so low that it doesn't make economic sense to invest in a facility like that at this time."
(Paducah Sun Oct. 23, 2016)
Cameco writes down complete CDN$ 184 million investment in GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE)
"During the quarter, a decision was made by the majority partner of GLE to significantly reduce funding of the project. As a result, Cameco recognized an impairment charge of $183,615,000, which represents the full amount of Cameco's investment."
(Cameco Oct. 29, 2014)
License application for Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility project to be filed in September 2014
On Jan. 20, 2014, Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) advised the NRC of GLE's intent to prepare a license application for the authority to construct and operate a laser enrichment facility under 10 CFR Part 70. GLE expects to submit the license application for the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility (PLEF) by September 2014.
DOE selects GLE proposal for re-enrichment of depleted uranium stocks with laser-based uranium enrichment plant to be built at Paducah site
> View here
GE-Hitachi proposes to build laser-based uranium enrichment plant at Paducah site
GE-Hitachi has submitted a proposal for the beleaguered Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant that could help preserve many of the 1,200 jobs there.
The plant had been scheduled to close last year, but a deal reached in May kept it open for another year. It currently is enriching depleted uranium for the Tennessee Valley Authority and for a Washington state utility called Energy Northwest.
The Paducah Sun reports GE-Hitachi is proposing to build a new laser-based uranium enrichment plant at the site.
(AP Feb. 24, 2013)
> See also: DOE request for expressions of interest for Paducah gaseous diffusion enrichment plant facilities and DOE depleted and off-specification UF6 inventories
Silex evaluates opportunity to build laser enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky, to re-enrich depleted uranium
On Nov. 20, 2012, Silex Systems Limited confirmed that a preliminary evaluation is being undertaken regarding the potential to build an additional enrichment plant using the SILEX Technology at the site of the existing gaseous diffusion enrichment plant in Paducah Kentucky, USA. The evaluation includes early stage discussions between General Electric-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) and the owner of the Paducah facilities, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and is dependent on further detailed analysis.
GLE is proceeding with the evaluation of the opportunity to build a plant utilising the SILEX Technology to enrich 'high assay tails' stockpiles - potentially worth approx. $3 billion after enrichment (based on current price and process assumptions). There are approximately 100,000 metric tons of 'high assay tails' owned by the DOE and stockpiled at its Paducah and Portsmouth (Ohio) facilities. Silex believes that much of this material could be processed with the efficient SILEX enrichment technology to produce either natural assay uranium or enriched uranium for further use as nuclear fuel.
> See also: Compostion of the U.S. DOE Depleted Uranium Inventory (70k PDF)
NRC Docket No. 07007016
NRC License No. SNM-2019
> View GE Laser Enrichment Facility Licensing (NRC)
> Aerial View: Google Maps · MSRMaps
GLE requests license termination for commercial laser enrichment plant project in Wilmington
On Feb. 18, 2020, GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) requested the termination of License No. SNM-2019 for the GLE Commercial Facility: "The facility as described in the licensing documents listed in License Condition 10 has not been constructed; therefore, no physical or principal activities authorized by the License have been conducted at the facility site located in Wilmington NC. The decision has been made that the facility will not be constructed, and therefore the License should be terminated."
On the same day, GLE requested a new Facility Clearance to reflect the new ownership of GLE.
On Aug. 25, 2020, GLE submitted a revised request for termination of the license.
On Jan. 5, 2021, NRC issued the requested license termination.
Silex and Cameco to acquire GE-Hitachi's stake in GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC
On Feb. 6, 2019, Silex System Ltd announced that Silex Systems and Canadian uranium miner Cameco Corporation have signed a Term Sheet detailing key terms for the joint purchase from GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy of its 76% interest in SILEX technology licensee GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE).
Subject to finalising a mutually satisfactory binding agreement and obtaining US Government approvals, the proposed restructure of GLE would result in Silex holding a 51% interest, and Cameco increasing its interest in GLE from 24% to 49%.
On Dec. 16, 2019, Silex System Ltd announced that Silex and Cameco have signed a binding purchase agreement for the joint purchase from GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy of its 76% interest in SILEX technology licensee Global Laser Enrichment (GLE). Subject to obtaining US Government approvals and other factors, closing of the agreement would result in Silex acquiring a 51% interest in GLE, and Cameco increasing its interest in GLE from 24% to 49%;
Silex abandons plan to acquire majority stake in GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC
On June 12, 2018, Silex Systems Ltd announced that it has decided to abandon the acquisition of GE-Hitachi's 76% interest in GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE). The Silex Board decided that there remained too many risks associated with GLE's business case.
Majority owners to leave GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE)
On Apr. 18, 2016, Silex Systems Limited (Silex) announced that GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) are looking to exit GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE), the exclusive Licensee for the SILEX laser uranium enrichment technology. GE and Hitachi hold 51% and 25% stakes in GLE respectively.
GE Hitachi slows construction of Wilmington laser enrichment plant down due to market conditions
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's Global Laser Enrichment announced plans late Wednesday (July 23) night to suspend work on development of technology done at its facility in Wilmington, which will apparently impact about two dozen workers in the area.
In an email statement, a GLE official said "most contractor-based work on the project will be suspended", and later added that approximately two dozen contractors in Wilmington "support the project".
The statement released Wednesday night said GLE "plans to pace development of the technology in alignment with market conditions".
(WECT July 24, 2014)
President of German Physical Society warns from proliferation risk of planned laser enrichment plant in North Carolina
Prof. Wolfgang Sandner, president of Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft e.V. , warns from the proliferation risk of the GE-Hitachi laser enrichment plant in Wilmington, North Carolina.
(Spektrum der Wissenschaft Oct. 18, 2012)
NRC issues license for GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC facility in Wilmington, North Carolina
> Download NRC release Sep. 25, 2012 (PDF)
> Download License SNM-2019 (PDF)
NRC issues draft license for proposed GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC facility in Wilmington, North Carolina
> Download draft license SNM-2019 (Sep. 20, 2012)
NRC issues Final Safety Evaluation Report and Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC facility in Wilmington, North Carolina
> Download NRC news release Feb. 29, 2012 (PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 49 (Tuesday, March 13, 2012) p. 14838-14839 (download full text )
> Download Safety Evaluation Report for the General Electric-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC Laser-Based Uranium Enrichment Plant in Wilmington, North Carolina, NUREG-2120 , Feb. 29, 2012 (2.5MB PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 44 (Tuesday, March 6, 2012) p. 13367-13368 (download full text )
> Download Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment, LLC Facility in Wilmington, North Carolina - Final Report (NUREG-1938) , Feb. 28, 2012
> View Docket ID NRC-2009-0157 (regulations.gov)
Critics demand assessment of proliferation risks of laser enrichment
In a little-known effort, General Electric has successfully tested laser enrichment for two years and is seeking federal permission to build a $1 billion plant that would make reactor fuel by the ton.
That might be good news for the nuclear industry. But critics fear that if the work succeeds and the secret gets out, rogue states and terrorists could make bomb fuel in much smaller plants that are difficult to detect.
Iran has already succeeded with laser enrichment in the lab, and nuclear scientists worry that GE's accomplishment might inspire Tehran to build a plant easily hidden from the world's eyes.
Backers of the laser plan call those fears unwarranted and praise the technology as a windfall for a world increasingly leery of fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases.
But critics want a detailed risk assessment. Recently, they petitioned Washington for a formal evaluation of whether the laser initiative could backfire and speed the global spread of nuclear arms.
"We're on the verge of a new route to the bomb," said Frank N. von Hippel, a nuclear physicist who advised President Clinton and now teaches at Princeton University. "We should have learned enough by now to do an assessment before we let this kind of thing out."
(Boston Globe Aug. 21, 2011)
NRC issues Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC facility in Wilmington, North Carolina for comment
Comments will be accepted until August 9, 2010.
> View NRC release June 24, 2010
Federal Register: June 25, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 122) p. 36447-36449
(download full text )
> Download Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC Facility in Wilmington, North Carolina (NUREG-1938, Draft for Comment)
> View Docket ID NRC-2009-0157 (regulations.gov)
Proliferation risks from laser enrichment technology exceed benefits, scientists say
The US Congress should take the lead on discouraging efforts to advance uranium-enrichment technology, argue Francis Slakey and Linda R. Cohen in an Opinion piece in this week's Nature. They believe that the newest laser enrichment technology - called separation of isotopes by laser excitation (SILEX) - offers more potential risks than benefits. It is not critical for expansion of the nuclear power industry today, or in a future where greenhouse-gas emissions are tightly capped and the nuclear industry favoured. Capital costs and regulatory policies will determine the size of that industry. "Rather, the development and potential risk of misappropriation of an enrichment facility too small and efficient to be detected could be a game changer for further nuclear proliferation," say the duo.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering an application to operate a full-scale commercial SILEX plant in North Carolina; this is open to public petition until 15 March. A final decision is expected to take at least another year. Slakey and Cohen urge Congress to require that proliferation risks be evaluated as part of the NRC licensing process, starting with the SILEX application. If the proliferation risks of such technologies beyond the licensee's control are deemed too high, requested users should not be licensed, they say. Such a barrier would discourage commercial research and development in this area.
Opinion: Stop laser uranium enrichment, by Francis Slakey and Linda R. Cohen, in: NATURE Vol.464 No.7285, 4 March 2010, pp 32-33
NRC releases Environmental Report Supplement 2 for GE Hitachi laser isotope separation enrichment plant project
Federal Register: March 2, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 40) p. 9451-9452 (download full text )
> Download Environmental Report Supplement 2, Nov. 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML093240135)
> Download Environmental Report Supplement 1, July 2009 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092100577)
NRC issues Notice of Hearing on GLE's license application for commercial laser technology uranium enrichment plant in Wilmington (North Carolina)
Deadline for Requests for Hearing, Petitions to Intervene and Contentions, and Requests for Limited Participation is March 15, 2010.
> View NRC release Jan. 14, 2010
Federal Register: January 13, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 8) p. 1819-1830 (download full text )
> View NRC Commission Order CLI-10-04, Jan. 8, 2010
GLE submits license application for commercial laser technology uranium enrichment plant in Wilmington (North Carolina)
GE Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) – a business venture of GE, Hitachi Ltd. and Cameco – on 30 June 2009, submitted its license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). GLE would build the commercial uranium-enrichment facility, the first to use laser technology, near Wilmington, N.C. (Silex July 1, 2009)
> Download GLE license application (ADAMS Acc. No. ML092110280)
> Download Submittal of Remaining Portion of Application for the Construction and Operation of the GLE Commercial Facility (ADAMS Acc. No. ML091871003)
NRC issues Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed GE-Hitachi uranium enrichment facility in Wilmington
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announces its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluating this proposed action. The EIS will examine the potential environmental impacts of the proposed GLE facility.
NRC invites public comments on the appropriate scope of issues to be considered in the EIS. Written comments submitted by mail should be postmarked by no later than August 31, 2009 (comment period extended), to ensure consideration.
Federal Register: April 9, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 67) p. 16237-16238 (download full text )
Federal Register: July 24, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 141) p. 36781-36782 (download full text )
NRC releases Environmental Report for GE Hitachi laser isotope separation enrichment plant project
> Download Environmental Report for the GLE Commercial Facility, December 2008 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML090910573)
GE-Hitachi submits first part of application for laser isotope separation enrichment commercial facility project in Wilmington
On Feb. 4, 2009, GE-Hitachi announced that the environmental portion of a combined construction and operating license (COL) application had been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
(World Nuclear News Feb. 4, 2009)
GE Hitachi selects Wilmington, North Carolina, as site for potential commercial uranium enrichment facility
Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a subsidiary of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), has announced it has selected GEH's Wilmington headquarters site for a potential commercial uranium enrichment facility. The planned GEH plant would result in the creation of hundreds of new technical, operational and support jobs at the site between now and 2012.
Before moving ahead with full-scale production plans, GLE will first evaluate the results of a demonstration test loop, which is currently under construction, and obtain an NRC license to build and operate the commercial plant. Commercial licensing activities are currently underway to support a projected start-up date of 2012.
The commercial GLE facility would have a target capacity of between 3.5 and six million separative work units (SWUs). GEH intends to make a final decision on the construction of the facility as early as the beginning of 2009.
(Centre Times Daily Apr. 30, 2008)
Current application submittal date for full-scale facility: 2008
> View background information
NRC Docket No. 07007016
NRC License No.
> View GE Laser Enrichment Facility Licensing (NRC)
Hitachi to report US$ 620 million loss upon withdrawal from laser isotope separation enrichment demonstration facility project in Wilmington:
Electronics giant Hitachi Ltd. is set to lose tens of billions of yen this fiscal year due to the withdrawal from a project to develop a new method of uranium enrichment by a joint venture in the United States.
Hitachi is expected to report a 70 billion yen ($620 million) non-operating loss by the time books are closed for fiscal 2016 at the end of March, said Mitsuaki Nishiyama, a senior vice president of the Tokyo-based conglomerate, in a news conference on the company's performance through the third quarter.
The deficit is largely attributed to the joint venture GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc. withdrawing from the uranium enrichment project. Due to this decision, Hitachi no longer expects any profits from the North Carolina-based company, of which it owns 40 percent and the rest by General Electric.
(Asahi Shimbun Feb. 2, 2017)
Test Loop Program Phase I Milestone completed at GE-Hitachi laser isotope separation enrichment demonstration facility in Wilmington (North Carolina):
On May 21, 2013, Silex Systems Limited announced that the Test Loop Program Phase I Milestone: Technology Demonstration, has been successfully completed at GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment's facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA.
NRC fines GE-Hitachi $45,000 for multiple security violations at laser isotope separation enrichment demonstration facility in Wilmington (North Carolina):
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has fined GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy $45,000 for multiple security violations at a North Carolina facility using classified technology to test whether lasers can be used to enrich uranium.
A redacted copy of an NRC violation letter provided to The Associated Press on Thursday (Oct. 20) following a Freedom of Information Act request said investigators identified five violations including "a significant lack of management attention." Details of the violations described by the letter were blacked out by nuclear regulators before it was released to The AP. While some violations were "willful," "no actual consequences resulted," the NRC said.
The violations involved a contractor's employee working at the GE-Hitachi's Global Nuclear Fuels facility near Wilmington, where the company is using top-secret technology to find out whether lasers can effectively enrich uranium instead of costlier centrifuges, company spokesman Christopher White said.
(Boston Globe Oct. 20, 2011)
> Download FOIA/PA request 2011-0300, July 19, 2011
On July 30, 2009, Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) announced the start-up of a "test loop" to evaluate a next-generation uranium enrichment technology that GLE is developing.
The test loop is designed to validate the commercial feasibility of the technology and advance the design of the equipment, facility and processes for the planned commercial production facility.
GLE anticipates gleaning sufficient data from the test loop by the end of 2009 to decide whether to proceed with plans for a full-scale commercial enrichment facility.
On June 20, 2008, Cameco Corporation announced it is joining a uranium enrichment business venture in the United States.
Cameco has finalized an agreement with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) whereby a Cameco subsidiary will provide $123.8 million (US) to acquire a 24% interest in Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) based in Wilmington, North Carolina. The remainder of GLE is owned indirectly by General Electric Company (51%) and Hitachi Ltd. (25%).
On May 14, 2008, Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a subsidiary of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved a license amendment (to an existing nuclear facility license) to operate a Test Loop for GLE's next generation, SILEX laser-enrichment technology.
Demonstration Facility to be sited at Global Nuclear Fuels in Wilmington, NC
Letter of Intent submitted on October 11, 2006
Current application submittal date for demonstation facility: mid-2007
> View background information