By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
While it is only being mentioned in passing, a recent decision by the French company Areva, to suspend its nuclear enrichment plant project in Idaho could lead to a partnership with U.S. rival USEC Inc.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Areva announced plan to cut jobs and suspend projects around the world as part of a five-year turnaround plan, aimed at returning to profit after posting a massive financial loss in 2011.
Areva’s new Chief Executive Luc Oursel told a meeting of financial analysts that Areva plans to cut up to 1,500 jobs in Germany and has suspended the Eagle Rock, Idaho, project in a bid to offset losses this year that could reach 1.6 billion euros ($2.12 billion).
Areva won a U.S. license to build and operate the planned $3 billion gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant in Idaho in October, a key step in the company’s plans to expand production of nuclear fuel in the United States. That plant would have been used to enrich uranium for use in the manufacture of nuclear fuel for commercial power reactors and was planned to be in operation by 2014. A final decision on the project had been on hold pending the review of Areva’s capital investments undertaken by Oursel and his new management team.
Oursel said Areva would cut its total investments by 34 percent to 7.7 billion euros over the 2012-2016 period, down from 11.6 billion euros over 2007-2011.
According to platts.com, “Oursel did not exclude the possibility that the Eagle Rock project, which has been licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that has been accepted for a U.S. government loan guarantee and booked orders covering 70 percent of its nominal capacity, could proceed under new partnerships, including with its U.S. rival, USEC.”
“Our corporation is always looking for strategic options for the company that will enhance the shareholder value,” USEC Vice President of Communications Paul Jacobson said. “But we never publicly discuss these types of speculative media reports about our future business strategies.”
USEC and the Department of Energy are looking to partner on a project that will allow further testing of the American Centrifuge process, while keeping alive an application by USEC for a $2 billion loan guarantee from the DOE.
“I think it’s fair to say from our view-point that we believe that the market place demand and the expected sunset of existing enriched uranium sources around the world still presents a strong business case for the American Centrifuge Project. We’re proceeding accordingly along those lines, pursuing this RD&D (Research Development and Demonstration) pathway and the funding to support it, which we see as an important program to help take risk out of the project, develop further technical information, to really serve as a pathway to the loan guarantee and commercialization,” Jacobson said.
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.