USEC announced Thursday that Exelon Generation Company has signed a contract to purchase Separative Work Units (SWUs) from its ACP to fuel its reactors. The contract, set to begin in 2012, is valued at nearly $1.2 billion.
“We strongly support the deployment of the American Centrifuge technology and look forward to continuing our long relationship with USEC,” said Chris Crane, Exelon’s president and chief operating officer.
Crane, in a prepared statement, said the ACP is important to Exelon “as a source for increasing fuel supply diversity, but it is also important for the country as an important component of energy and national security.”
USEC, a global energy company supplying enriched uranium fuel for commercial nuclear power plants, said earlier this year it had gotten other customer commitments valued at over $3.4 billion for the ACP’s output.
“Our customers believe in the American Centrifuge technology and support our efforts to complete the plant,” said John K. Welch, USEC’s president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate Exelon’s support and look forward to continuing to provide them with the same quality, reliable service they have come to expect from USEC.”
USEC has been building the American Centrifuge Plant to provide the dependable, long-term nuclear fuel production capability needed to support the world’s nuclear power plants. The American Centrifuge technology is based on U.S. gas centrifuge technology originally developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) but with significant design, material and manufacturing improvements incorporated by USEC.
USEC is the only commercial uranium enrichment facility using U.S. centrifuge technology.
USEC has applied for a loan guarantee from DOE, which at first indicated it would not make the loan to the company. The department indicated it sees promise in the ACP technology, but said USEC’s application did not meet all the statutory and regulatory standards that would permit the agency to grant a loan guarantee at the time.
Both DOE and USEC recognize that meeting these criteria will likely take six months or more.
As a result of delays and uncertainty in funding, USEC began demobilization of certain project activities in August 2009 while it works to resolve DOE’s technical and financial concerns.
However, DOE said in August it will hold off a final review of the application from Bethesda, Md.-based USEC for at least six months. That’s was a softening of the department’s position from just weeks earlier, when it asked the company to withdraw the application and come back again in 12 to 18 months.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the administration is allowing USEC to test its technology more fully and line up additional financial support for the project in Piketon.
Welch called it a “path forward” for the plant, which he believes has all the qualifications to succeed.
“We strongly believe in the American Centrifuge technology. We are committed to continuing our development efforts in Oak Ridge and Piketon to prepare the technology for full commercialization. The agreement provides a path forward for consideration of our loan guarantee application,” Welch said.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.