USEC’s existing enrichment facility, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, uses gaseous diffusion, an energy intensive, WWII-era uranium enrichment technology. The average load at Paducah in 2011 was 1,376 megawatts.
The American Centrifuge technology requires 95 percent less electricity to produce low enriched uranium on a per SWU unit basis than our existing gaseous diffusion technology. Using the American Centrifuge technology will allow USEC to reduce its annual electricity requirements by more than 10 million megawatt hours, enough to power the state of New York for more than a month.
The reduction in electricity demand will create large environmental benefits. Chiefly will be the associated reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions of more than 10 million tons a year, the equivalent of taking 2.2 million automobiles off the road.
Nuclear Power: Clean-Air Energy
Nuclear power plants generate roughly 20 percent of the electricity used in the United States and are the country’s largest source of emissions-free electricity. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, U.S. nuclear plants prevented the emissions of more than 642 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010.
As America works to meet the often conflicting goals of powering our economy while reducing our nation’s impact on the environment, expanding the country’s nuclear capacity offers a reliable, long-term solution to both problems.
For this reason, many of the nation’s utilities have begun the process to potentially build new reactors at sites around the country. Some of these new reactors could be producing electricity as early as the middle of this decade.
Many other nations are embracing nuclear power because of its clean-air benefits too. According to the World Nuclear Association, more than 484 reactors are currently planned or proposed for construction in 43 countries around the world, most notably in China and India.
Because the American Centrifuge technology is modular and capacity can be expanded to meet demand, any growth in the domestic or world markets for nuclear fuel due to new nuclear plants coming online can be met from a domestic, environmentally friendly source.