| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Dec 30 A unit of France's Areva
Group CEPFi.PA on Tuesday applied to the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission for permission to build a $2 billion
uranium enrichment plant in Idaho, the company said.
Areva Enrichment Services, based in Bethesda, Maryland,
last May announced plans to build the Eagle Rock Enrichment
Facility 18 miles from Idaho Falls. The plant, which will be
near a federally run lab where nuclear energy work has been
done for more than 50 years, is to open in 2014.
Areva is one of three companies planning newer-technology
uranium enrichment plants to serve the 104 U.S. nuclear power
reactors. Every year, these reactors need 13 million to 14
million separative work units (SWU), which measure the amount
of work expended during uranium enrichment.
Three new U.S. uranium enrichment plants are to have the
capacity to produce nearly 13 million SWU a year by 2015.
If an expected renaissance for nuclear power in the United
States occurs, need for all three new plants is clear. The
three companies said that even if demand does not grow as
expected, there will be enough demand for all three plants,
including supplying the international uranium market.
The NRC says it expects to get applications for
construction of 34 nuclear reactors by 2010, and has already
received license applications for about half that figure.
The only U.S.-based uranium enrichment plant now in
operation is owned by USEC Inc USU.N in Paducah, Kentucky.
That plant can make up to 6 million SWU a year. Its gaseous
diffusion technology is more than a half century old and uses
95 percent more electricity than the newer centrifuge
technology of the three new plants.
Areva's Idaho plant will be capable of producing 3 million
SWU a year, said company spokesman Jarret Adams.
USEC may lower production in Kentucky once it opens --
expected by 2012 -- a 3.8-million SWU/year centrifuge plant on
the site of its shuttered gaseous diffusion plant in Piketon,
Ohio. The new USEC plant is to cost about $3.5 billion and is
under construction, said USEC spokesman Jeremy Derryberry.
European consortium Urenco's Louisiana Energy Services
(LES) began construction in 2006 of the biggest new centrifuge
enrichment plant, called the National Enrichment Facility, in
Eunice, New Mexico.
It is to open its first stage by fall 2009 and by 2011 be
able to make 3 million SWU a year. Full build-out by 2014 will
allow 5.9 million SWU a year, said LES spokeswoman Brenda
LES will not say more about the cost of the plant than it
will be more than $3 billion.
Areva's Adams said the NRC is expected to take up to 2.5
years to decide on the Idaho plant application.
The U.S. Department of Energy plans to issue $2 billion in
loan guarantees for uranium enrichment and both Areva and USEC
have applied for the full $2 billion in loan guarantees.
Tax incentives of about $400 million offered by Idaho for
the new plant helped Areva decide on Idaho rather than a
proposed site in New Mexico, an Areva spokesman said in May.
The French government owns more than 80 percent of Areva
(Editing by David Gregorio)