USEC Nears Centrifuge Demonstration

A U.S. company is just weeks away from demonstrating its ability to enrich uranium using centrifuges, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, April 23).

USEC Inc. currently produces low-enriched uranium fuel for nuclear power plants using a decades-old gaseous diffusion process which consumes enormous amounts of electricity.  The diffusion facility, located in Paducah, Ky., is the only uranium enrichment site in the United States.

Using centrifuges would consume just 5 percent of the energy the diffusion facility uses, AP reported.  Workers have been building the new facility at Piketon, Ohio.

USEC hopes to demonstrate the new technology as part of an effort to persuade investors to fund the full project, said USEC spokeswoman Elizabeth Stuckle.

"Investors are always more comfortable when they can kick the tires," she said.

USEC plans call for starting commercial operations in late 2009, ramping up to full capacity in 2012.  When completed, the facility would hold 11,500 centrifuges, each one 12 meters tall, AP reported.

The project is critical for U.S. energy security, said steelworker union leader Dan Minter.

"This must succeed.  The risk is too great of not having a viable enrichment operation," he said. "We should have learned our lesson from our dependency on foreign oil and gas.  To rely on another nation would be irresponsible" (Terry Kinney, Associated Press/Kentucky.com, June 12).

June 12, 2007
About

A U.S. company is just weeks away from demonstrating its ability to enrich uranium using centrifuges, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, April 23).