“This marks another important step toward deploying U.S.-developed centrifuge technology to provide enriched uranium fuel for nuclear power plants,” USEC President and CEO John Welch said.
The company wants to begin commercial enrichment operations in 2009 with 11,500 centrifuge machines running by 2012.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted USEC a construction and operating license for the plant in April.
But Southern Ohio Neighbors Group co-founder Geoffrey Sea said he wonders if construction actually has started. He says the announcement may be a ploy to attract investors.
American Centrifuge Public Affairs Manager Angie Duduit said USEC has no investors for the program yet.
“USEC is dealing for a federal bailout,” Sea said.
Gov. Ted Strickland has said he thinks USEC will ask for a taxpayer-funded federal bailout to deploy the American Centrifuge program.
On May 4, the company said it is looking for a third-party investor and/or the federal government to raise the money needed to build the commercial enrichment plant.
Deployment of the program is expected to cost $2.3 billion.
The start of construction is one of the milestones mandated by the Department of Energy.
USEC leases the gaseous diffusion plant from the energy department.
The company plans on testing the new technology with the test plant set to open in Piketon in the summer, according to Duduit.
But Sea wondered how the company can begin construction on the commercial plant before it knows if the technology will work.
Duduit, however, said the technology was proven to work about 20 years ago.
“The lead cascade (test plant) was made to improve the efficiency of the technology,” she said. “It will also give us cost schedule performance data.”
Such data will be useful in attracting investors, she said.
JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.