Between June 2012 and April 2014, USEC and the Department of Energy executed a cooperative research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program to confirm the technical readiness of the American Centrifuge, the next-generation U.S. uranium enrichment technology.
The RD&D program supported building, installing, operating, and testing commercial plant support systems and a 120-machine cascade that could be incorporated in the full commercial plant in Piketon, Ohio, which is planned to operate 96 identical cascades.
The cooperative agreement between USEC and DOE defined the scope, funding and technical goals for the program. The agreement provided for 80% DOE and 20% USEC cost sharing for work performed during the period June 1, 2012 through April 30, 2014.
- USEC completed the RD&D program within budget and on schedule.
- DOE certified completion of all ten program technical milestones and all five Performance Indicators.
- In 2013, USEC completed removal of legacy cascade support equipment, installed new infrastructure equipment and the 120-machine demonstration cascade to commercial plant specifications, completed the integrated systems testing program for the cascade, conditioned the machines and piping with uranium hexafluoride gas, and successfully completed a series of tests, including a “station blackout” test.
- USEC began operating the commercial demonstration cascade in October 2013, and in December, the cascade achieved 20-machine years of operations at commercial plant specifications. During that performance run, USEC successfully completed three important milestones demonstrating centrifuge manufacturing quality, centrifuge operational reliability and sustained production of greater than 340 SWU at commercial conditions for 20-machine years.
- Following completion of the initial scope, the program was amended in January 2014 to add a 10th milestone and extend the period of performance to April 15, 2014.
- The program utilized 169 companies from 28 states to support RD&D construction, manufacturing and operations activities.
- During construction of the demonstration cascade systems in early 2013, the program added more than 300 workers in Ohio, Tennessee and other states, raising the total project workforce to more than 1,100 workers at that time.
American Centrifuge Demonstration, LLC
USEC and its subsidiary, American Centrifuge Demonstration, LLC, carried out the RD&D program. American Centrifuge Demonstration put in place a program management and enhanced program execution structure as agreed to in the cooperative agreement with DOE. In July 2012, USEC entered into a limited liability company agreement for American Centrifuge Demonstration that, among other things, established a board of managers in accordance with the enhanced program execution structure. The board of managers oversaw and directed the management of the RD&D program.
The RD&D program funded the following activities:
- Installation and operation of a 120 machine cascade, that would be replicated 96 times in a commercial plant, along with related plant support systems
- Continued manufacture and assembly of the AC100 centrifuges used in the 120 machine demonstration cascade.
- Ongoing technical support for centrifuge manufacturing and lead cascade operations.
- Engineering, Procurement and Construction work needed to install and operate the 120-machine demonstration cascade.
- Maintaining the centrifuge intellectual property and sustaining the domestic centrifuge technical and industrial base for national security purposes and potential ACP commercialization.
- Activities to reduce risk and improve the prospects of future deployment of the American Centrifuge
The cooperative agreement included technical milestones for the RD&D program.
- Milestone 1 (Completed): DOE and USEC jointly agree upon a test program for the remaining milestones and for full system reliability and plant availability that takes into account human factors, upgraded Lower Suspension Drive Assembly (“LSDA”) and overall AC100 reliability, and full cascade separative performance, so as to achieve an overall plant availability and confidence level needed to support commercial plant operations
- Milestone 2 (Completed): Confirm the reliability of the LSDA by accumulating 20 machine years of operation at target speed using AC100 centrifuges with upgraded LSDAs with no more than the projected number of LSDA failures
- Milestone 3 (Completed): DOE and USEC will jointly agree to revise and further define the test program plan to include agreed parameters and success criteria for tests and such other modifications as the parties agree, such as the inclusion of additional milestones
- Milestone 4 (Completed): Successfully complete “Extended Feed Rate Range Survey, Machine” test
- Milestone 5 (Completed): Successfully complete “Machine Performance Parameter Test” test
- Milestone 6 (Completed): Successfully complete “Power Outage Testing, Machine Response” test
- Milestone 7 (Completed): Demonstrate AC100 manufacturing quality by operating the commercial demonstration cascade for a minimum of 20 machine years to provide the confidence level needed to support commercial plant operations
- Milestone 8 (Completed): Demonstrate AC100 reliability by accumulating 20 machine years at target speed and design condition with no more than the expected number of infant, steady-state and electronic recycles
- Milestone 9 (Completed): Demonstrate sustained production from a commercially staged, 120-centrifuge demonstration cascade configuration for 60 days (approximately 20 machine years) in cascade recycle mode with production availability needed during commercial plant operations using an average AC100 centrifuge production of 340 SWU per centrifuge year
- Milestone 10 (Completed): USEC and DOE agreement upon parameters and success criteria to test a range of cascade operational parameters and configurations expected to be utilized during enrichment operations
The agreement included substantial taxpayer protections:
- USEC granted DOE an irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free license in centrifuge intellectual property for government purposes.
- USEC granted to DOE title to certain existing equipment used in the RD&D program as well as all equipment, such as centrifuge machines, produced or acquired as part of the RD&D program.
- USEC instituted a new governance structure for the RD&D program by forming American Centrifuge Demonstration, LLC.
- American Centrifuge Demonstration was subject to the requirements USEC must meet under its NRC license.
- American Centrifuge Demonstration had a seven-member board of managers that was not controlled by USEC.