USEC Inc. (NYSE:USU) today announced that its American Centrifuge project for uranium enrichment has surpassed one million hours of machine run-time in its Lead Cascade test program. USEC has operated centrifuge machines at its American Centrifuge Demonstration Facility in Piketon, Ohio since August 2007.
“One million hours of run-time is a testament to the robustness of this leading-edge technology and a great accomplishment for our team,” said Dan Rogers, general manager of American Centrifuge Plant operations. “With this experience in the demonstration facility, we have improved the technology and gained extensive knowledge and operating data.”
USEC continues work on a research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) to enhance the technical and financial readiness of the centrifuge technology for commercialization.
“One million hours of run-time gives us great confidence in the machine technology and design. The RD&D program that we are working on will provide further demonstration of the technology’s readiness for commercialization and serves as a bridge to commercial deployment,” added John K. Welch, USEC president and chief executive officer.The proposed RD&D program scope is to construct and operate a demonstration cascade of 120 commercial centrifuge machines. The RD&D program is expected to establish the high-confidence level in cascade reliability required by DOE to support loan guarantee financing for the commercial plant. The RD&D program will also build out and demonstrate the redundant cascade support systems that will be installed in the commercial plant. USEC has already invested more than $2 billion in the American Centrifuge project, and will continue funding the RD&D program through the end of May. After May 31, the company’s credit facility will impose tight restrictions on American Centrifuge project spending absent a definitive agreement with DOE for federal funding of the RD&D program. While Congress is pursuing program funding as part of the fiscal year 2013 budget process, federal funding for the RD&D program is not yet available from June 1 through October 1. Without federal funding, USEC will likely begin to demobilize the project in June.