By Frank Lewis
Without referring to the American Centrifuge Project at Piketon by name, Daniel Poneman, president and CEO of Centrus Energy Corp told delegates at the World Nuclear Association’s Annual Symposium in London last week the nuclear power industry has a unique role to play in tackling two “existential threats” facing all humanity – climate change and nuclear war.
According to an article in World Nuclear News, using Centrus Energy as an example, Poneman said that a “robust nuclear growth scenario” will require many things, including reliable fuel supply and strong competition with multiple suppliers.
Poneman made the statement in the same week that the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it will end the American Centrifuge Test Demonstration and Operation (ACTDO) activity at Piketon, potentially resulting in the layoffs of 200 employees. With a reduction in funding by the federal government, Centrus Energy Corp. announced their new reduced contract with Oak Ridge National Laboratory will not include continued operations of America’s only operating cascade of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in Piketon.
“While we view ourselves as an important partner in supporting the US national security mission, we are also keenly focused on providing our LEU (Low Enriched Uranium) customers with reliable, on-time deliveries on commercially attractive terms. While current uranium prices will not support investment in global new capacity today, we are also keenly focused on ensuring that our own suppliers can count on us to be reliable counterparties,” Poneman said. “Today’s market has too much supply but not too many suppliers. We are optimistic about the long term that, eventually, the market will support investment in new enrichment capacity. To be able to commit to that 2 Degree Scenario, we’ll need to more than double our enrichment capacity by 2050.”
Poneman told the symposium history will record 2015 as a pivotal year for both of those existential threats.
“First, when it comes to the most pressing global proliferation threat – the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons – the P5+1 and Iran have concluded a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which will constrain Iran’s nuclear program and subject it to enhanced international monitoring. Second, three months from now, negotiators from 190 nations will meet in Paris for historic climate talks aimed at finding a way to limit global warming to 2°C this century – an ambitious target that many scientists say is necessary to avert the worst consequences of the change in climate,” Poneman said.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) “has urged with growing insistence”, he said, “that the window available to take action to deal with this threat effectively is closing rapidly”.
The World Nuclear News article went on to quote Poneman – “The nuclear power industry has the understanding, the capabilities and the resources to execute this important mission for the benefit of our citizens, our customers, our stakeholders and the world.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.