Wilmington-based Global Laser Enrichment is exploring business opportunities offered by the closure of the country's only government-owned uranium enrichment facility in Western Kentucky.
But company officials stressed Tuesday that the move doesn't preclude GLE from building a proposed laser-enrichment facility in Castle Hayne, for which it won federal approval last year but has yet to start construction.
GLE is responding to an open call from the U.S. Department of Energy for interest in its soon-to-close Paducah, Ky., gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant, which employs 1,200 workers in the Ohio River city on a 3,425-acre site.
GLE's submission of interest is nonbinding, said Christopher White, spokesman for the company's parent, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and he said that the DOE's call is not a request for proposals.
“We're just learning more about the site” and no decisions or commitments have been made, he said Tuesday.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted GLE permission to operate a plant in Castle Hayne that uses laser technology to enrich uranium. If built, it would be the only plant of its kind in the world.
The company said Tuesday that the NRC approval is site-specific, meaning that it can only be built at Castle Hayne and that GLE would need to seek additional federal approvals to build on any other site.
An Associated Press article, however, quoted The Paducah Sun newspaper as saying that GE Hitachi is proposing to build a new laser-based uranium enrichment plant in Paducah.
White said that story is “further down the line than reality would have it.”
Chad Chancellor, president of Paducah Economic Development, said Tuesday that he had no comment on whether GLE would build on the site or whether it was interested in doing so.
Though the NRC gave its approval for a Castle Hayne plant, the company indicated then and reiterated Tuesday that it has not decided whether it will build that facility or whether it actually will commercialize the process. GLE has made no decisions about any of its choices, White said, which also include building other facilities for other uses of the laser-enrichment process.
“We are looking at a number of commercialization options, and that work has been going on since we received the license and will continue for the next several weeks or months,” White said.
Any interest GLE might have in the Paducah facility would be in the site and not the plant. White said the company has “no interest in operating a gaseous diffusion plant.”
The proposed Castle Hayne laser-enrichment plant would employ about 680 people in construction-related jobs and about 3,000 jobs would come indirectly from the construction, the company said when the facility's license was granted. GLE has said it expects to create about 350 new permanent jobs.
If it is built, the facility would be the first in the world to use the SILEX technology. SILEX stands for separation of isotopes by laser excitation and was developed in the 1990s by an Australian company.
Several years of studies, investigation and hearings preceded the NRC's approval of a 40-year license to build and operate a plant in Castle Hayne.
The proposed plant would be built on about 117 acres on GE's sprawling 1,600-acre campus near the intersection of Castle Hayne Road and Interstate 140.
I found this part interesting "which also include building other facilities for other uses of the laser-enrichment process." which also include building other facilities for other uses of the laser-enrichment process." molybdenum99 immediately comes to mind but there are other uses that laser is supposedly capable of enriching or purifying.
I had to laugh at this bit though, "the company has “no interest in operating a gaseous diffusion plant.”"