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US DOE Offers $2B Conditional Loan Guarantee for Front End Nuclear Facility in Idaho

As part of a broad effort to expand the use of nuclear power in the United States and reduce carbon pollution, US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced today Department’s first conditional commitment for a front-end nuclear facility. The $2-billion loan guarantee will support AREVA’s Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility near Idaho Falls, Idaho, which will supply uranium enrichment services for the US nuclear power industry.

Increasing uranium enrichment in the United States is critical to the nation’s energy and national security. Existing reactors will need additional sources of enriched uranium soon. New nuclear plants that could start to come on line as early as 2016 will also need a steady, reliable source of uranium enrichment services. AREVA's project will help to meet that demand.

—Secretary Chu

The Idaho Falls facility will use advanced centrifuge technology instead of the more energy-intensive gaseous diffusion process. Although Eagle Rock will be only the second plant to use this technology in the US, it has been employed in Europe for about 30 years to enrich uranium for the commercial power market. The project’s technology uses 95% less electricity than the gaseous diffusion technology it replaces.

Areva estimates construction of the Eagle Rock facility will create 1,000 jobs. The total project is expected to cost approximately $3.3 billion.

The light-water reactors that constitute the US fleet are fueled by low-enriched uranium, in which the concentration of the easily-split U-235 isotope is raised from less than one percent found in natural uranium to between three and five percent by weight. (Natural uranium is largely comprised of the U-238 isotope.)

Currently, the United States obtains half of its enriched uranium from Russia under the Megatons-to-Megawatts program, in which nuclear materials that were once pointed at the United States are converted to civilian nuclear fuel to power America’s economy. The program expires in 2013, after which alternate sources of enrichment services will be required to support the continued and expanded use of nuclear power in the United States

The project must obtain a Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before the loan guarantee can be finalized. In addition to the $2 billion in loan guarantee authority under the 2009 Omnibus Bill, the Department has made available an additional $2 billion to support uranium enrichment technology from loan authority provided in 2007.

This is the ninth project to be offered a conditional commitment by the Department of Energy since March, 2009.

Comments

HarveyD

An essential step towards the implementation of future up-to-date nuclear power plants.

sulleny

DOE is taking some significant steps to shore up the US energy independence status. This will ultimately save vast amounts of money by converting transportation energy to electric. Expanding the present light water resources is only a first step. New, non-volatile nuclear technologies such as thorium should be well financed by DOE. Not to mention potential non-radiative nuclear research like the Navy's LENR program.

Demand for centralized power plants can readily be reduced by the mass adoption of Residential Power Units fueled at first by NG and later by low cost in-situ H2 electrolysis. This broad portfolio of traditional and alternative energy resources MUST be adopted in order to avoid the introduction of disruptive energy technology and its attendant social impacts.

Henry Gibson

Such a facility should only be built where there is an existing or planned nuclear reactor. All heat for the process can come from the cheap nuclear heat before it is converted to more expensive electricity. The building cooling can also be done with piped in nuclear heat used in a refrigeration cycle. This will eliminate much of the already miniscule CO2 footprint of US nuclear fuel. Foam glass can be used to permanently insulate and protect the steam pipes.

The steam could also be used to operate ethanol factories nearby.

This company should immediatly order a CANDU reactor which is the fastest large reactor to build. Amusingly, such reactors do not require enriched uranium. They also use less uranium total per kilowatt hour than standard US reactors. They can also reuse 100 percent of US reactor fuels, but it is more cost effective to remove the fission contaminants and blend it with the depleted uranium from the stockpiles as the Chinese are now testing and long predicted by AECL the makers of CANDU reactors.

The combination of the Snake River and the Columbia River power plants and a constantly running nuclear power plant is a good economic combination as the water can be saved for much of the day for peak use during much of the year.

The Canadian government can substantially reduce the cost of CANDU reactors by monetizing Deuterium Oxide. Not much of it is destroyed by its use, so it is valued like gold and just lent or leased for use. It always can be mostly recovered when a reactor is decommissioned and used in a new one.

Banks will be allowed to hold ownership of deuterium oxide for reserves as well. The US and other governments can do the same thing. It is easy to remove the fuel from a CANDU reactor and recover the Deuterium oxide(heavy water) in a few weeks at most, and the Government of Canada can promise to give a standard amount of money for its return. AECL knows how to remove most of the radioctivity in it and is now doing it on a regular basis. Most of it goes away by itself in a few decades and is not more dangerous than an old TV set, but it can be extracted and sold for several uses. ..HG..

France should immediatly order several CANDU reactors to be used alongside the standard ones now being built as the UK needs the low carbon power ignoring totally Germany's need for it; much of Canada speaks French and they use CANDU reactors. ..HG..

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