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[cdn-nucl-l] New US Uranium Enrichment Plant to Be Built
Posted by the Associated Press on Northernlight.com on June 18, 2002 and
High-Tech Uranium Plant to Be Built
Story Filed: Tuesday, June 18, 2002 12:14 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration has reached a deal with the
nation's only uranium enrichment company in an effort to ensure the
United States does not become completely dependent on foreign sources
for nuclear fuel.
The Energy Department announced Tuesday it had signed an agreement with
USEC Inc., of Bethesda, Md., for the company to build a new high-tech
uranium enrichment plant in either Kentucky or Ohio within a decade.
The new plant would replace the company's 50-year-old facility in
Paducah, Ky. USEC will continue producing 30 percent of the nation's
nuclear fuel at the old facility until the new, more efficient plant is
able to produce that amount of enriched uranium.
If USEC fails to live up to the deal, the Energy Department could take
over the Paducah facility's enrichment operations.
The Energy Department used to run that plant, but the government
privatized its enrichment activities in 1998. That led to the formation
of USEC Inc. in a $1.9 billion stock deal.
If USEC doesn't abide by the agreement, the Energy Department could
recommend that the company lose its status as the government's only
purchaser of uranium fuel from Russia.
Through the ``megatons to megawatts'' program, designed to keep
bomb-grade uranium out of the hands of terrorists, USEC buys enriched
uranium taken from old Soviet bombs and sells the fuel to U.S.
The recycled Russian fuel accounts for roughly half the enriched uranium
used by U.S. nuclear plants. Nuclear power supplies about 20 percent of
the nation's electricity
It's a profitable arrangement for USEC. Earlier this year, USEC signed
an agreement with its Russian counterpart allowing the U.S. company to
buy the Russian fuel at a lower price than it previously paid.
Russia gets roughly $500 million annually from the program, which has
destroyed 5,600 warheads.
Critics question the wisdom of placing the future of a key U.S.-Russian
agreement with a company that has had a troubled financial record
Since USEC was privatized in 1998, it has seen its credit rating slide
to junk-bond level and its stock price cut in half. USEC also faced
heavy criticism last year when it ceased enrichment activities at an
Ohio plant, eliminating roughly 500 jobs.
On the Net:
USEC Inc.: http://www.usec.com/
Copyright C 2002 Associated Press Information Services, all rights