European consortium to build uranium enrichment plant in US

European consortium to build uranium enrichment plant in US

US authorities have given a European-led consortium peremission to build the first uranium enrichment plant in the United States for 30 years.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the new 1.5 billion dollar plant would be built at Eunice in New Mexico by Louisiana Energy Services (LES).

Work on the National Enrichment Facility (NEF) is to start in August and the plant could be selling enriched uranium by 2009, according to officials.

LES is made up of the European firm Urenco, British Nuclear Fuels and a number of smaller US partners.

“This is a historic and remarkable achievement for our company, for the nuclear industry as a whole,” said LES president Jim Ferland, emphasizing how it was the first major commercial nuclear facility to be licensed in the United States in three decades.

The Eunice plant will use gas centrifuge technology developed by Urenco and that the plant already had contracts worth three billion dollars. “It will use a proven technology that has operated safely in Europe for 30 years,” LES said in a statement.

Urenco already has plants in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany.

LES made its application in 2003 and since then US authorities have been conducting regulatory and security checks. The nuclear commission said in a statement that “since the flow of technology and classified information would be into the United States, no concerns were identified.”

At the moment, the only US uranium enrichment plant is in Kentucky.

President George W. Bush has set a target of reducing US dependence on Middle East oil by 75 percent by 2025. He has also called for the building of new nuclear power plants.

There are more than 100 nuclear reactors in the United States but none has been built since the fire at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvannia in 1979.

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