BETHESDA, Md. – The USEC Inc. (NYSE:USU) American Centrifuge program in Piketon, Ohio, has successfully passed an unannounced “station blackout” test that is part of a program to prove the uranium enrichment technology’s technical readiness. Technicians, without warning, interrupted the external power supply to the commercial demonstration cascade facilities in order to test the responsiveness of equipment, backup systems and personnel at the uranium enrichment plant to a total loss of outside power. This test is part of the cost-shared research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program with the Department of Energy (DOE), designed to demonstrate the technical readiness of the American Centrifuge to meet national security needs.
“I am pleased to report that all of our personnel on duty and all of the plant equipment, including the 120 centrifuges that were running with full inventory of uranium hexafluoride gas, responded safely and within expected parameters, with no unusual events or issues related to the total loss of power,” said Paul Sullivan, vice president, American Centrifuge and chief engineer. “This was a litmus test for us, and our people and technology came through it with flying colors.”
Representatives from DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission observed the test, which took place December 18.
The successful loss of power test and the recently announced achievement of key milestones for centrifuge reliability, cascade performance and centrifuge manufacturing quality as part of the RD&D program are crucial to demonstrating that the American Centrifuge, as America’s only indigenous uranium enrichment technology, can effectively serve the national and energy security needs of the United States. The recent achievements included reaching 20 machine-years of operations at the production-scale cascade of centrifuge machines. The formal test results for the three recent milestones and the loss of power test will be reviewed and certified by DOE. Previously, six other technical milestones were successfully achieved as part of a June 2012 cooperative agreement between USEC and DOE.
As previously disclosed, USEC and DOE are in discussions regarding extension of the American Centrifuge RD&D program beyond January 15, 2014, subject to Congressional appropriations. USEC is currently working with stakeholders, including DOE and Congress, to achieve an extension of the RD&D program and to identify the best path forward for deployment of the centrifuge technology.
USEC Inc., a global energy company, is a leading supplier of enriched uranium fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.