Areva plans USA nuclear enrichment plant

3 July 2007 – Areva, the French nuclear engineering company, has filed proposals to build a $2bn uranium enrichment plant in the United States, according to Les Echos, the French sister paper of the Financial Times.

If approved by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a site could be chosen by the end of this year, with a view to beginning production in 2013. Areva’s proposal is one of three requests submitted to the commission to build enrichment plants. The USA operator USEC plans a plant in Ohio and Urenco, a European consortium, plans to start a new plant in New Mexico in 2009.

According to a study by Patrice Lambert de Diesbach, an analyst at CM-CIC Securities, America relies on imports for more than 90 per cent of its nuclear power station fuel. Half of the supply comes from surplus Russian military uranium, a source that will fall from 2013.

Areva is offering to build a half-size version of its $4bn George Besse II plant, which is under construction at Pierrelatte in southern central France. Like the French site, the USA plant would use centrifuge enrichment technology from ETC, a 50/50 joint venture between Areva and Urenco. The centrifuge technology, also used in the UK, Germany and elsewhere, requires 60 times less electricity than earlier-generation fuel enrichment plants.

The opening of Areva’s proposed USA enrichment plant, in 2013, would coincide with the planned entry into service of nuclear plants after a prolonged dearth of nuclear construction. The country’s nuclear plant operators want more enrichment capacity added because the only existing plant, operated by Usec, cannot meet even a fraction of existing demand.

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