GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy will build a facility on its global headquarters in Wilmington, North Carolina, based around a novel laser technology from Australian company SILEX that will enrich uranium (U-235) up to 8% by weight.
It looks like a research facility. But the rumor a while ago that Hitachi, and GE for that matter, want to pull out of the nuclear business was, just a rumor, it seems.
From Business Wire (9/25/2012):
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's Global Laser Enrichment Receives Nuclear Regulatory Commission License f
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's Global Laser Enrichment Receives Nuclear Regulatory Commission License for Uranium Plant
First-of-a-Kind Facility Licensed by NRC to Make Laser Enrichment of Uranium a Reality
WILMINGTON, N.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's (GEH) Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) today announced receipt of its license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a groundbreaking laser enrichment facility on the 1,600-acre site of the company's global headquarters in Wilmington, N.C.
While a commercialization decision must still be made by the company, the license enables GLE to build a first-of-its-kind uranium enrichment facility using lasers conceived of by Australian technology company SILEX and developed by GLE experts. The company has worked with the NRC, the U.S. departments of State and Energy and independent non-proliferation experts for several years to ensure the security of this technology and has met—and in many cases exceeded—all regulations pertaining to safeguarding this technology.
"Receiving our NRC license is a tremendous accomplishment and strong testament to everyone involved in this project," said Chris Monetta, president and CEO of Global Laser Enrichment. "The technology we've developed could be one of the keys to the nation's long-term energy security. At a minimum, it could provide a steady supply of uranium enriched right here in the U.S. to the country's nuclear reactors. These reactors provide approximately 20 percent of the nation's electricity today and will continue to be an important part of the energy mix for decades to come."
Today, a majority of enriched uranium made to produce nuclear fuel in the United States comes from foreign or government-supplemented sources. The GLE license, applied for in June 2009, will allow the laser enrichment plant to produce up to 6 million single work units (SWU) per year in the United States.
The next step in the process is for the company to make a commercialization decision. This decision will be based on several factors.
About GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
Based in Wilmington, N.C., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a world-leading provider of advanced reactor technology and nuclear services. Established in June 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
Christopher White, +1 910-819-6121
Masto Public Relations
Tom Murnane or Howard Masto
A bit more details from the local news station WWAY (9/25/2012):
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today issued a license to GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) to build and operate a uranium enrichment plant using laser technology in Castle Hayne.
The license authorizes GLE to enrich uranium up to eight percent by weight in the fissile isotope U-235, using a laser-based technology. It will be used in fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors. GLE plans to build the plant at the site of GE-Hitachi's existing Global Nuclear Fuel-America's fuel fabrication plant.
"Receiving our NRC license is a tremendous accomplishment and strong testament to everyone involved in this project," GLE President and CEO Chris Monetta said in a statement. "The technology we've developed could be one of the keys to the nation's long-term energy security. At a minimum, it could provide a steady supply of uranium enriched right here in the US to the country's nuclear reactors. These reactors provide approximately 20 percent of the nation's electricity today and will continue to be an important part of the energy mix for decades to come."
The approval comes more than three years after GLE submitted its license application and after safety and environmental reviews by the NRC.
There's no word when construction will begin. The company says "the next step in the process is for the company to make a commercialization decision. This decision will be based on several factors." It did not elaborate on those factors.
The NRC staff will conduct inspections during the construction and operation of the GLE facility. The agency plans to hold a public meeting in Wilmington before construction begins to explain its oversight plans to the public.