Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quest is still in the West for Areva's new plant

That was the week that was
[Update below 03/17/08]
The race to land a deal for a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant is coming down to the final lap. It's not NASCAR, but plenty is known about the five leaders in the pack based on reports in the news media. By most measures of success, the viable sites are all in western states - Idaho, Washington, New Mexico, and Texas.

There are five sites that have been confirmed in the news media that Areva is considering for its uranium enrichment plant. In addition to a location west of Idaho Falls, Areva is considering a site in Richland, WA, next to a nuclear fuel fabrication plant. In New Mexico the site is reported to be in Hobbs and right across the border there is a reported site in Andrews County, TX. The two towns are reported to be working together to land the plant.

The fifth and final site is reported to be Piketon, OH, where citizens groups who opposed the GNEP facility there last year have reorganized to stop Areva from siting its uranium enrichment plant in Piketon.

Areva appears to be waiting for the Idaho Senate to vote on tax incentives which passed in the House and which were voted out of Senate committee earlier this week. There is still the question of whether the governor will sign the measure. Critics of the bill in the Senate said it was too good a deal and would result in Micron coming to legislature asking to sweeten the tax breaks it got last year.

Even if the governor signs the tax incentive bill, Areva might still choose one of the other sites. Of the five Piketon seems the least likely because of high political noise level associated with the Piketon site. Areva has said it will not go where it is not wanted.

Andrews, TX, is a long shot and shares that quality with Hobbs. The reason is there already is a uranium enrichment plant being built in Eunice, NM, by Louisiana Energy Services. The National Enrichment Facility is about the same size as the plant Areva is reported to want to build. The available resources to support a second uranium enrichment plant at that location might be hard to come by or be more expensive than Areva bargained for.

Idaho Falls has a favorable political climate and a favorable tax climate assuming the Senate passes the pending legislation and the governor signs off. That's an interesting question because this governor seems to live in the 19th century and from everything I've read has no interest in technology based economic development. He appears to think that farming, mining, timber, and tourism are what Idaho is about. There are lots of people who like that idea, but there's not much room in that world view for for 21st century nuclear energy facilities. Of course he could surprise us.

Update 03/17/08 - Bart Davis, Idaho Senate Majority Leader, said in an email to me this morning, "Gov. Otter has been very helpful in getting the bill out of our Senate committee. I am confident that he will sign it." ~ The Idaho Senate passed both bills later in the day. Link. ~ and the governor signed it the following week on 03/25/08

Richland, WA, is on paper the leading candidate for the plant. Washington has the types of tax incentives Areva wants, a strong, if unionized workforce, a favorable political climate in the Tri-Cities area, if not elsewhere. Most importantly, the reported site is within spitting distance, metaphorically speaking, to a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, which is the next step in the value chain for this industry.

I expect we'll know more after the Idaho Senate acts next week. If the Senate votes down the incentives, Areva will likely take Idaho off its list. If you want the plant, and the economic benefits of 200 high paying permanent jobs, contact your state senator. Contact information at the URL below.

Prior coverage on Idaho Samizdat Nuke Notes at these URLs

Idaho Samizdat Nuke Notes blog coverage of Areva uranium enrichment plant since Janaury 2008. Short title and web link.

Piketon, OH, is fifth site for Areva plant - link

Idaho Senate committee approves tax bill for Areva plant - link

Areva executive cites Richland's advantages - link

Andrews County, TX, is on the map - link

Richland, WA, shows up on Areva's radar screen - link

Areva says no to Lynchburg, VA, for enrichment plant - link

Areva postpones decision but keeps looking - link

Idaho Falls is on the map for Areva plant - link

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