Updated February 2014
USEC and the Department of Energy are executing 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 supports 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 defines the scope, funding and technical goals for the program.
- The RD&D program continues within budget and on schedule.
- 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.
- DOE has certified completion of seven of the ten program technical milestones and all five Performance Indicators. DOE is reviewing documentation of three milestones for certification of completion.
- Centrifuge operations, testing and manufacturing are also continuing at USEC’s facilities in Oak Ridge, TN.
- The program has 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.
- The cooperative agreement provides for 80% DOE and 20% USEC cost sharing for work performed during the period June 1, 2012 through April 15, 2014. DOE’s contribution continues to be incrementally funded. The most recent amendment provides additional government obligated funds of approximately $16.7 million, bringing total government obligated funding to approximately $279.55 million. The balance of the government’s original $280 million cost-share is anticipated to be provided in the near future.
- The government fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill appropriated $62 million for the RD&D program. That amount includes $29.3 million that had been previously provided under the cooperative agreement pursuant to the continuing resolutions that funded government operations in GFY2014 prior to the enactment of the omnibus and the additional $22.6 million provided under the agreement by DOE since its passage. The omnibus also provides DOE with authority to transfer up to an additional $56.65 million of funding within DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration appropriations to fund the program subject to further approval of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. To obtain such approvals, the Secretary of Energy must notify Congress and submit to the committees a cost-benefit analysis of available and prospective domestic enrichment technologies for national security needs and the scope, schedule and cost of the Secretary’s preferred option.
- The pre-arranged Chapter 11 restructuring of USEC Inc.’s balance sheet is intended to position USEC as a stronger sponsor of the American Centrifuge. It will have no impact on daily operations of the centrifuge RD&D program and no U.S. taxpayer funds will be put at risk.
American Centrifuge Demonstration, LLC
USEC and its newly created subsidiary, American Centrifuge Demonstration, LLC, are carrying out the RD&D program. American Centrifuge Demonstration has 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 oversees and directs the management of the RD&D program. The seven-person board is comprised of the following members:
- Luis Reyes, executive director for operations (retired), U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Chairman),
- Kenneth R. Camplin, vice president, operations, Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Group, Inc.,
- M. Roger Eshelman, executive vice president and chief operating officer (retired), Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC,
- Bruce Rash, vice president, engineering, Exelon Generation Company, LLC,
- Philip G. Sewell, senior vice president and chief development officer, USEC Inc.,
- Robert Van Namen, senior vice president and chief operating officer, USEC Inc., and
- Hitoshi Yabuta, vice president, project management, Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation.
The RD&D program funds the following activities:
- Installation and operation of a 120 machine cascade, that will 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.
- Maintain the centrifuge intellectual property and sustain 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 includes 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; DOE certification pending): 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; DOE certification pending): 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; DOE certification pending): 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 includes substantial taxpayer protections:
- USEC has granted DOE an irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free license in centrifuge intellectual property for government purposes.
- USEC has 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 is instituting a new governance structure for the RD&D program by forming American Centrifuge Demonstration, LLC.
- American Centrifuge Demonstration will be subject to the requirements USEC must meet under its NRC license.
- American Centrifuge Demonstration has a seven-member board of managers that is not controlled by USEC.