Silex Systems Limited (ASX: SLX) ("Silex") confirmed today that a preliminary evaluation is being undertaken regarding the potential to build an additional enrichment plant using the SILEX Technology at the site of the existing gaseous diffusion enrichment plant in Paducah Kentucky, USA. The evaluation includes early stage discussions between General Electric- Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) and the owner of the Paducah facilities, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and is dependent on further detailed analysis.
"Whilst the key event over the past year was the recent approval by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the license for the proposed commercial SILEX Laser Enrichment Plant in Wilmington, North Carolina, this is also a welcome development" Dr Michael Goldsworthy, Silex CEO said today. "I should emphasize that this is a very early stage evaluation of the opportunity, however it could provide significant upside for Silex if it proceeded".
GLE attended the DOE's July 2012 'Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant Industry Workshop' (along with other interested third parties) and as a result is proceeding with the evaluation of the opportunity to build a plant utilising the SILEX Technology to enrich 'high assay tails' stockpiles - potentially worth ~$3bn after enrichment (based on current price and process assumptions). There are approximately 100,000 metric tons of 'high assay tails' owned by the DOE and stockpiled at its Paducah and Portsmouth (Ohio) facilities. Silex believes that much of this material could be processed with the efficient SILEX enrichment technology to produce either natural assay uranium or enriched uranium for further use as nuclear fuel. Further information on the Paducah plant opportunity will be disclosed in due course as the evaluation proceeds.
Operations at the existing first-generation Paducah gaseous diffusion plant remain uncertain beyond May 2013, principally because of the high costs of enrichment driven by the very high power consumption of the plant. Against this backdrop, the DOE is evaluating whether opportunities exist for private industry to operate the facility as a commercial uranium enrichment facility or individual facilities (buildings, warehouses, machine shops, lands, utilities), as well as other assets as they become available for reindustrialisation by private commercial companies. Access to existing infrastructure at Paducah could realise significant cost savings and reduce the overall time to establish a full scale laser enrichment plant.
PADUCAH, Ky.---The United States Enrichment Corporation has made it clear they're shutting down operations at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant next year, which would likely result in a loss of more than 12-hundred jobs.
Back in July, the U.S. Department of Energy held a workshop where they invited nuclear companies to come and take a look at the Paducah plant. A D.O.E. spokesperson said at that time a handful of companies expressed interest in the site.
This week, one of those companies made its interest official.
This is what they want; access to the 100 thousand metric tons of uranium tails already at the Paducah plant and at an Ohio plant. Tails that are potentially worth 3 billion dollars after enrichment, that'll be used for nuclear fuel.
The company is from Australia, and they're called S.I.L.E.X. and what they do is in their name; they separate isotopes by laser excitation.
It's a relatively new way to produce nuclear energy, much different from gaseous diffusion, which is the current method used in Paducah. The possibility of this company coming to Paducah is generating lots of excitement.
If you want to know how important this is to P.G.D.P. employees, just ask. While they know about S.I.L.E.X., they won't talk about it on the record, because they don't want to mess up what could be a very good thing.
But at Pugh's Midway Market, where P.D.G.P. employees gas up every day, people are talking.
"It would be good news, obviously because it would save a lot of jobs, Nick Stuber said.
Everyone we spoke with knew someone who depends on the plant for a paycheck.
"We've already got a trained work force, all it would be really is paperwork," Bruce Teeters said.
A Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesperson said the company has yet to file formal application to operate a plant here, that's the first step they'll have to take and it's a lengthy one. So it could be years before we see S.I.L.E.X. officially move in.
The Department of Energy would like to make a deal with someone before U.S.E.C. ceases operations in Paducah in May. Folks who've grown up here hope something happens before the uranium enrichment plant is gone for good.
"I don't know anything about uranium or anything, I just know to our community and our families it would be a big hit. Another reason why S.I.L.E.X. is so interested in Paducah; access to the existing facilities at the Paducah plant would save lots of money and time as they build a full scale laser enrichment plant.
The N.R.C. spokesperson said the feds will do environmental impact studies, safety reviews, and hold public meetings to educate neighbors about the new process and allow community groups to get involved and address concerns they might have about the plant.we reached out to the president of Paducah Economic Development to see if he had any contact with S.I.L.E.X., and he didn't return our calls.
Usec should spin off (something it at least ought to be good at) the PGDP to Silex. Have Immelt and GE assume all the closing liabilities and buy all of Usec's leasehold improvements and other property. That would be the best outcome for both companies.
Then let the best technology win.
Intuitively, this seems like a great idea. The existing buildings, infrastructure, and (most importantly) the skilled work force are already in place. This is from the perspective of maintaining significant employment activity in western KY and southern IL. From the perspective of SILEX, having a ready supply of feed (the depleted uranium in tails cylinders) also seems like a great idea.
The regulators would need to decide whether the multi-year project to convert the depleted uranium (tails) to a stable uranium oxide and the commercially valuable hydrogen fluoride (in the current DUF6 project) can accommodate an efficient/effective SILEX process.
If General Electric and its partners can demonstrate that SILEX "can fly" on a large/industrial scale, then this use of the existing facility at Paducah would need to receive strong consideration.
I just tried to post a direct link to the SILEX annual shareholder meeting of yesterday, but the Yahoo censors ate it up--try a news search for SILEX if you're interested--I? didn't see any specifics on Paducah, but I could have missed something, too... Stan
First USEC is denied a $2 billion DOE Loan guarentee, then out-of-nowhere General Electric (sponsors of SILEX) get a $2 billion grant for an alternative energy project (like they need the money!). Now this. Keep in mind that GE's CEO is Obama;s Jobs Czar and it looks like USEC was done in by dirty politics.
Move along, there's nothing to see here!