Third-Generation Technology Would Increase Production of Enriched Fuel for U.S. Nuclear Power Plants
WILMINGTON, N.C.--30 June 2009--
Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a business venture of GE, Hitachi Ltd. and Cameco, today announced a landmark in the deployment of its proposed, next-generation enrichment facility designed to increase the United States’ supply of enriched uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants.
GLE has completed its license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build the world’s first commercial uranium enrichment facility to use laser technology. The proposed facility would be built in Wilmington, N.C.
The new facility would produce a new domestic supply of low-enriched uranium used to power nuclear plants to meet an anticipated increase in global demand. The facility also would help support the country’s goal to reduce carbon emissions through the expanded use of nuclear energy, which creates virtually no greenhouse gases during the electricity generation process.
If approved, GLE’s facility could help drive U.S. job creation, including up to 300 permanent engineering and support staff positions and more than 500 construction jobs.
“Our goal is to enable an efficient and effective review of our innovative technology by providing a quality, complete application to the NRC,” said Tammy Orr, President and CEO of GLE. “Submitting the highest-quality product has been our priority for this significant licensing process milestone.”
The NRC’s estimated 30-month application review will officially begin once the agency formally dockets, or accepts, the GLE application. On January 30, GLE submitted its environmental report for the proposed facility, representing a significant portion of the overall license application. The NRC had approved the early, partial submittal to add efficiency to its review process.
Global demand for low-enriched uranium is expected to increase significantly in the coming years.
First, a major supply of low-enriched uranium for U.S. nuclear power plants will cease in 2013, with the expiration of a program to convert Russian weapons-grade material into nuclear plant fuel (commonly known as “Megatons to Megawatts”).
Also, the anticipated construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants is expected to further intensify the demand for fuel.
”This is an exciting time in our industry,” Orr said. “As world leaders in innovation and technology, we have a unique opportunity to offer needed enrichment supply to nuclear operators meeting the challenges of energy security, climate change and increased demands for power.”
GLE currently is in the pre-deployment stage of its enrichment test loop, which is designed to confirm the commercial feasibility of the technology and advance the design of the equipment, facility and processes for the planned production facility.
GLE will use the information from the test loop in its evaluations of whether or not to proceed with the full-scale commercial facility. The plant would be co-located with the existing nuclear fuel manufacturing facilities of Global Nuclear Fuel and the new plants and services business of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, headquartered in Wilmington, N.C.
If the decision is made to proceed with construction, the GLE commercial production facility would have a target capacity of three-to-six million separative work units (SWUs). A SWU is a unit measuring the energy used to enrich uranium, which is then fabricated into fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants.
In 2006, GLE acquired the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize the third-generation uranium enrichment technology globally through a license from Silex Systems Ltd. of Australia. In 2008, Cameco, one of the world’s largest uranium producers, acquired a 24% ownership stake in GLE.
About GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
Based in Wilmington, N.C., GEH is a world-leading provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.
About Cameco Corporation
Cameco, with its head office in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is one of the world's largest uranium producers. The company's uranium products are used to generate electricity in nuclear power plants around the world, providing one of the cleanest sources of energy available today. Cameco's shares trade on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges.