The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, December 24, 2002

USEC signs Oak Ridge lease to begin centrifuge testing
DOE spent more than two decades and $3 billion on centrifuge technology there before abandoning it.

By Joe Walker

USEC Inc. said Monday a lease has been signed with the Department of Energy to use a building in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to advance deployment of gas centrifuge technology to enrich uranium.

The signing of the lease and starting the building's $150 million refurbishment complete the first in a series of milestones outlined in an agreement with the Energy Department in June. USEC said the milestones delineate its schedule to test the first new centrifuge machines in the United States by 2005 and build a commercial plant later in the decade.

Earlier this month, USEC announced it will build the 50-job test plant in Piketon, Ohio, which already has a mothballed gas centrifuge building. Paducah, which had hoped to get the test plant, still is in the running for the 500-job commercial plant that eventually will replace the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. USEC officials give Piketon the advantage because of having the centrifuge building and lacking Paducah's seismic problems.

DOE spent more than two decades and $3 billion on centrifuge technology before abandoning it at Piketon and Oak Ridge. USEC says its American Centrifuge uses the same technology while cutting costs and improving efficiency using state-of-the-art materials, control systems and manufacturing processes.

The leased building, called K-1600, is in the East Tennessee Technology Park. It is unique because it houses valuable centrifuge-related equipment and infrastructure, USEC says. Refurbishment includes rebuilding support systems for the centrifuge machines' test stands, installing component test systems, and improving safety and security systems.

Piketon's plant will test as many as 240 machines to provide updated cost, schedule and performance data to build the $1.5 billion commercial plant. USEC expects to finish key engineering work for the plant in January and apply for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license by April.