A license from the NRC is expected in 2011
An application was filed Dec 30 by Areva with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the Eagle Rock uranium enrichment plant to be located 18 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID. The application is for a combined construction and operating license.
The NRC license review process is expected to take just under three years which targets the first shovel of dirt being moved in summer 2011. The plant is expected to generate 800 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs when it is fully operational in 2014. Areva said that at full capacity the plant will produce 3 million SWU a year.
Areva said in a prepared statement . . .
"The submission of the license application marks a significant step forward in the development of AREVA’s Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility and again demonstrates our commitment to the revival of America’s nuclear energy infrastructure," said Jacques Besnainou, President of AREVA Inc.
Areva has also applied for federal loan guarantees for the $2.4 billion plant as provided for in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It is competing for the federal insurance with USEC which also plans to build a new uranium enrichment plant in Ohio. Areva is also benefiting from significant tax incentives from the State of Idaho and an overwhelmingly supportive political climate.
Idaho Falls stands up for Areva
At the NRC's kick-off public meeting on the licensing process, held in Idaho Falls on Dec 10, more than 400 people turned out packing a hotel conference room to standing room only in a show of support for Areva's planned $2.4 billion 'Eagle Rock' uranium enrichment plant.
In the emotional highpoint of the meeting, Steve Laflin, (right) CEO of International Isotopes (OTC:INIS), turned from the microphone and asked the crowd, "will everyone who supports construction of the plant in Idaho Falls please stand up." The room lifted off as one. Laflin's firm is planning to develop a uranium deconversion plant to recover high purity fluorine gas from depleted uranium wastes from enrichment plants like Areva's.
The NRC said they wanted to know if there was strong community support in Idaho for the plant. It appears they received a clear signal about community support for the site. Community economic development agencies, including Grow Idaho Falls, told the news media that with a world class company like Areva coming to Idaho Falls, others will want to come as well.
Also, AREVA announced on Dec 12 the formation of AREVA Enrichment Services, LLC (AES) a new subsidiary responsible for U.S. enrichment services and the future owner and operator of the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility. Areva also named Sam Shakir (right) as President and CEO of AES.
Competition comes in threes
Areva isn't the only firm building a new uranium enrichment plant in the U.S. A race is on to build uranium enrichment capacity and bring it to market by 2013 when the U.S. Russian Megatons-to-Megawatts HEU downblending agreement comes to an end. The Megatons to Megawatts Program is a commercially financed government-industry partnership in which bomb-grade uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads is being recycled into low enriched uranium (LEU) used to produce fuel for American nuclear power plants.
In addition to the plant being developed by USEC, Louisiana Energy Services, the U.S. subsidiary of URENCO, has an NRC license and a plant under construction in Eunice, NM, in the far southeastern corner of the state near the Texas border. There the company has just announced that it is doubling the size of the plant with startup planned for 2011. At that time it will produce 3 million SWU/year. By 2014 the plant expects production to achieve 5.9 million SWU/year.
Finally, General Electric is developing a new laser enrichment process at its Wilmington, NC, facility. So far the technology is untried at full scale. Completion of a test loop is the next step for the firm. Company officials have previously said the firm will have a commercial plant in operation by 2012. Earlier this year CAMECO, the Canadian uranium mining giant, made a $125 million investment in the new facility.
# # #