U.S. Department of Energy officials announced in November of 2013, that negotiations are kicking off with Global Laser Enrichment that could lead to a formal agreement for construction of a facility in Paducah.
The negotiations stem from GLE’s response to a request for offers for redevelopment or utilization of assets at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant site. The company, owned by General Electric and Hitachi, proposes to re-enrich canisters of high-assay depleted uranium hexafluoride inventory, called “tails,” at the site through an innovative type of laser technology. The project carries a potential more than $1 billion investment.
GLE proposed licensing, constructing, and operating a new laser enrichment facility that could potentially provide significant compensation to the department for its depleted uranium hexafluoride inventories, as well as supporting U.S. policy interests and utilization of the Paducah site. The GLE offer also included the potential lease or use of existing Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant facilities, infrastructure and utilities. The company’s commercial operation also has the potential to produce substantial economic benefit to the Paducah region through the addition of highly skilled technical jobs and increasing the local tax base.
Through the review process, the Department also decided to enter into negotiations with AREVA for the off-specification uranium hexafluoride inventory.
The AREVA proposal utilizes its nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Richland, Washington, to process the off-specification uranium hexafluoride as blend stock for domestic nuclear reactor fuel. AREVA has well-established technology and licensed operations for blending this type of material with other uranium feed material.
The tails are currently housed at the Paducah and Portsmouth, Ohio, gaseous diffusion plant facilities. The RFO built on an Expression of Interest released earlier this year that provided the Department with confirmation that a number of parties are interested in utilizing the uranium inventories and potentially in using land or facilities at the Paducah site.