Laser Isotope Separation

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Kirk Sorensen
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Re: Billion dollar laser enrichment facility to be built by

Post by Kirk Sorensen » Nov 12, 2016 4:06 pm

Paducah Laser Nuclear Enrichment Facility Gets Fuel but Not Formal Construction Decision
While GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) confirmed it hasn’t made a formal decision to proceed with licensing or construction of a laser enrichment facility at Paducah, Ky., the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it has agreed to sell depleted uranium to the company over a 40-year period to help produce nuclear power plant fuel.

The DOE said that GLE would finance, construct, own, and operate the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility proposed for a site near the DOE’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in western Kentucky. The commercial facility is expected to use, under a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license, depleted uranium to produce natural uranium, which will then be used for production of fuel for U.S. civil nuclear reactors. The agreement provides for the sale of about 300,000 metric tons of DOE-owned high-assay uranium hexafluoride (DUF6) inventories for re-enrichment using proprietary SILEX technology to produce natural-grade uranium.

Yet, as a GE Power spokesperson told POWER on November 11, GLE “has made no formal decision to proceed with licensing or construction of the facility.”

Kurt Sellner
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Re: Billion dollar laser enrichment facility to be built by

Post by Kurt Sellner » Nov 12, 2016 6:23 pm

Did I read that correctly? It sounds like they are taking the tailings from a previous enrichment, the depleted uranium, and running through this new enrichment process to squeeze out whatever U-235 the previous enrichment missed. Do I have that right?

If I undertand this correctly then I'm left wondering if uranium prices have become so expensive that we are seeing people going back to a well that was previously considered dry. Is there a shortage of natural uranium or something?

I'd appreciate a correction/clarification on what they are trying to do here.
Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.

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Kirk Sorensen
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Re: Billion dollar laser enrichment facility to be built by

Post by Kirk Sorensen » Nov 12, 2016 6:44 pm

Kurt Sellner wrote:Did I read that correctly? It sounds like they are taking the tailings from a previous enrichment, the depleted uranium, and running through this new enrichment process to squeeze out whatever U-235 the previous enrichment missed. Do I have that right?
Pretty much. The old gaseous diffusion process used at Paducah was so expensive and wasteful of energy that they ran some pretty "high-tails" runs there for many years. GE-H probably realizes that with their technology, which I have heard from some people that I believe is incredibly energy efficient, they can run all those tails through the laser process and "mine" a bunch more U-235.

I had to snicker when I saw that they "bought" all that depleted uranium from the DOE. I'll bet they paid a dollar for the whole lot.

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Re: Billion dollar laser enrichment facility to be built by

Post by E Ireland » Nov 13, 2016 11:01 am

Gas Diffusion's only real advantage was that it was the best of the three WW2 era enrichment processes.
Once Gas Centrifuges came along it was doomed.
Lasers are more energy efficient, if they can get them to work properly, but the gas centrifuge does have the advantage of flexibility.
For example Urenco use their spare centrifuge capacity to enrich a variety of other isotopes for other purposes - lasers require fundamentally different equipment for each isotope to be seperated, and many cannot be so seperated.

The only more flexible technology is the mooted plasma centrifuge that would be able to enrich literally anything you can make a solid electrode out of.

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Re: Billion dollar laser enrichment facility to be built by

Post by Kirk Sorensen » Feb 02, 2017 3:13 pm

Hitachi to take a 70 billion yen hit after U.S nuclear project fails
Hitachi is expected to report a 70 billion yen ($620 million) non-operating loss by the time books are closed for fiscal 2016 at the end of March, said Mitsuaki Nishiyama, a senior vice president of the Tokyo-based conglomerate, in a news conference on the company’s performance through the third quarter. The deficit is largely attributed to the joint venture GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc. withdrawing from the uranium enrichment project. Due to this decision, Hitachi no longer expects any profits from the North Carolina-based company, of which it owns 40 percent and the rest by General Electric. After allocating the losses, the value of Hitachi’s share of the joint venture comes to only about 11 billion yen.

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Re: Billion dollar laser enrichment facility to be built by

Post by jagdish » Feb 05, 2017 4:16 am

Now the world has substantial amount of enriched uranium, reactor grade plutonium and additional plutonium locked in used LWR fuel. We should take a fresh look at nuclear power and find the most efficient ways of producing it. Thing which, by my laymans thinking are,
1. Changing the fuel cycles to incorporate use of a thorium blanket in all types of reactors. It will result in production of larger quantity of U-233, a superior fissile for reactors.
2. Use of fast cycle in all new designs. It will result in higher fissile production.
Let us replace enrichment with more efficient chemical processes now that it is possible.

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Re: Laser Isotope Separation

Post by Kirk Sorensen » Jun 13, 2018 7:57 pm

WNN: Silex Systems out of GLE restructure
GE-Hitachi (GEH) announced in 2016 its intention to exit the GLE joint business venture, which was set up by GE (51%), Hitachi (25%) and Cameco (24%) to develop uranium enrichment services capability and is the exclusive licensee for the SILEX laser isotope separation process technology developed by Sydney, Australia-based Silex in the 1990s. In May 2016, Silex and GEH agreed to negotiate a mutually acceptable restructure of GLE, with Silex potentially taking an equity position in the company by acquiring GEH's 76% interest. Silex yesterday said that despite being at an advanced stage in negotiations with GEH there remained too many risks associated with GLE's business case. Investment in GLE, with the entailed ongoing expenditure, would not be in its shareholders' interests, it said.

"This is a very disappointing outcome for the company," Silex CEO Michael Goldsworthy said yesterday. "The SILEX technology remains one of the most exciting developments in the nuclear industry for several decades, and after 20 years of cooperative development with the US, was just three years from reaching a key demonstration of full-scale 24/7 operation. Unfortunately, the continuing decline in the nuclear fuel markets precipitated by the tragic events of Fukushima in 2011, in combination with unresolved issues relating to the GLE restructure and the associated cash burn, has forced the Board to draw a line and make this decision," he added. Silex has now given notice for the termination of a term sheet on the proposed acquisition and by doing so, its monthly funding obligations of about AUD600,000 (USD455,000) per month for GEH's operations have ceased. Silex also said it intends to give notice to GLE of the termination of the SILEX technology licence "unless circumstances change dramatically in the short term". GEH yesterday told World Nuclear News that it is evaluating the impact of this development, and will continue to work with the US government and other key stakeholders to determine next steps.

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Re: Laser Isotope Separation

Post by Kirk Sorensen » Feb 06, 2019 12:58 pm

Silex Systems and Cameco ink uranium technology term sheet with GE-Hitachi
Technology firm Silex Systems (ASX: SLX) and Canadian uranium miner Cameco Corporation have signed a term sheet for the joint purchase of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s stake in Global Laser Enrichment (GLE). Under the term sheet, the parties will purchase GE Hitachi’s (GEH’s) 76% interest in GLE, which would result in Silex acquiring a 51% interest in GLE and Cameco increasing its interest in GLE from 24% to 49%. GLE is currently the licensee for SILEX, a laser-based uranium enrichment technology created by Silex Systems. Silex chief executive officer Dr Michael Goldsworthy said the proposed transaction provided an ideal path for the continued commercialisation of its technology in the US. “Should the binding purchase agreement be successfully completed, this will provide a viable path for the commercialisation of the SILEX technology through the Paducah project,” he said. “The most pleasing aspect of this deal is the willingness of Cameco, one of the world’s largest uranium fuel providers, to step up to a 49% stake in GLE.” The parties are hoping to execute the agreement by the end of April this year. The agreement remains subject to obtaining US Government approvals and on a 2016 sales agreement remaining in full force.

Agreement terms

Under the term sheet, funding for the continuation of GLE’s Wilmington Test Loop activities will be paid pro-rata by Silex and Cameco to the tune of US$300,000 per month. The term sheet also provides for a deferred purchase price of US$20 million payable to GEH in four consecutive annual instalments of US$5 million. Silex said itself and Cameco were working through several ancillary documents which will support a restructure of GLE under the proposed transaction, including a new shareholders’ agreement for the governance of GLE after the term sheet is finalised.

Technology commercialisation efforts

The term sheet aligns with Silex’s focus on commercialising SILEX. The technology was licenced exclusively to GLE in 2006, a business venture comprising GE, Hitachi and Cameco, with the consortium seeking to deploy the technology in the US. However, the future of the SILEX technology was placed in doubt last June when efforts to restructure GLE stalled after GE-Hitachi disclosed it was seeking to exit the venture. This forced the consortium to place the commercialisation efforts at Paducah on hold. Despite the hiccups, Silex said the Paducah commercial opportunity remained an ideal path to market for its SILEX laser enrichment technology. Though, Silex noted that further work on market access issues, and a recovery in the uranium market price were required to reduce associated risks at Paducah. Uranium prices have been in the doldrums since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, but grained traction during the last half of 2018 to end the year at US$28.50 a pound. Elsewhere, Silex said it would continue its commercialisation efforts at GLE’s test loop facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, albeit at a reduced capacity. This work is being undertaken in parallel with commercialisation efforts at Silex’s Lucas Heights facility in Sydney. Shares in Silex soared 41.2% to $0.24 in late morning trade.

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