CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story implied Urenco USA would expand the LES facility to its new licenced capacity of 10 million SWU. This company’s plans are clarified below.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved a licence amendment allowing Urenco to expand its Eunice enrichment plant.
The amendment is related to Louisiana Energy Services’ (LES’s) intention to expand its enrichment capacity at the Urenco USA facility by adding three new separation building modules (SBMs) and associated support facilities, in a phased approach over the next several years. Doing so would allow Urenco USA’s total enrichment production capacity to rise from 3.7 million separative work units (SWU) to as much as 10 million SWU, although the company told World Nuclear News, “LES current plans are to expand to 5.7 million SWU and will be able to expand further when additional enriched uranium is required by the market.”
In June 2014, LES wrote to the NRC requesting authorization to modify its licence possession limit to 251,000,000 kilograms (kg) of uranium – natural, depleted, and daughter products, in the same chemical and physical form – up from the 136,120,000 kg amount that is currently authorized.
In addition, LES requested authorization to possess 2,180,000 kg of enriched uranium, up from the 545,000 kg. LES also wants to utilize a new process in the cascades in SBM-1005 to allow for the use of high-assay uranium tails as feed material, instead of using natural uranium which contains about 0.7 weight percent U-235.
On 6 February, the NRC gave LES limited authorization to start operations of the first cascade within new SBM-1005.
The regulator said that it has now completed its review of the licence amendment request and its associated supplement and had “found the proposed actions acceptable”. This means that LAR-12-10 is approved, and Amendment 63 is being issued to licence SNM-2010, it said.