Laser uranium enrichment plant licensed by US NRC

Washington, DC--Following decades in development, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a license to GE Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) to construct and operate a commercial uranium enrichment plant using molecular laser isotope separation technology known as Silex. The plant will be constructed on 100 acres of the 1,600 acre GE campus north of Wilmington, NC, which is also home to GE Nuclear's world headquarters, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and a GE Aviation facility.

The license authorizes GLE to enrich uranium up to 8 percent by weight in the fissile isotope U-235, using the laser-based technology. This low-enriched uranium will be used in fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors.

The Silex technology has been licensed from Australian scientists Michael Goldsworth and Horst Struve, who founded Silex Systems Ltd (ASX: SLX; Lucas Heights, NSW, Australia). Details are highly classified as well as proprietary, but it’s believed to rely on 16 µm excitation of UF6 molecules containing U-235, followed by a second excitation step that frees a fluorine atom from the excited molecules, producing solid UF5 that settles out from the gaseous UF6.

Silex says only that its process can increase U-235 concentration by a factor of 2 to 20, but the exact number is classified. In any case, that’s a higher factor than the 1.3 for centrifuge enrichment and 1.004 for gaseous diffusion. Such a high enrichment factor would reduce both capital equipment and operating costs, giving lasers an advantage over the older processes.

The plant and the Silex process have been controversial because, with little known about Silex technology, assessing its potential impact on nuclear proliferation is difficult.

Chris Monetta, President and CEO of GLE says, “The technology we’ve developed could be one of the keys to the USA’s long-term energy security. At a minimum, it could provide a steady supply of uranium enriched right here in the USA to the country’s nuclear reactors. These reactors provide approximately 20 percent of the nation’s electricity today and will continue to be an important part of the energy mix for decades to come.”





Most Popular Articles

Webcasts

Opportunities in the Mid-IR

The technology for exploiting the mid-IR is developing rapidly:  it includes quantum-cascade lasers and other sources, spectroscopic instruments of many...

Fiber Optic Sensors – Fundamentals, Principles and Applications

In this webcast, sponsored by Nufern, we focus on optical fiber sensing technology.  Fundamental concepts will be presented first, followed by the under...

Infinite Possibilities – Easily Combining Scanner and Servo Motion

High precision motion control applications such as laser micromachining, 2-photon polymerization, glass panel and film patterning, and additive manufacturing...

Solutions in Search of Problems: What Spectroscopy Can Do for You

Spectroscopy is so pervasive that most of us take it for granted. We use it for routine laboratory and test measurements without appreciating how those same ...

Technical Digests

HIGH-ENERGY LASER COATINGS: Eliminating laser damage proactively

High-power and high-energy thin-film antireflection coatings for laser optics require careful des...
Sponsored by

LIBS -- spectroscopy for remote identification of materials

Laser-induced-breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) uses a pulsed laser to vaporize a small sample of a s...
Sponsored by

Laser Tools for Materials Processing

Laser materials processing requires not only the appropriate industrial laser system, but also a ...
Sponsored by

Click here to have your products listed in the Laser Focus World Buyers Guide.

RELATED PRODUCTS

P-series 1470nm to 1550 nm

Ultra-High Brightness Direct Diode Lasers 20W to 135W

T-Series 915nm, 940nm, or 976nm

Ultra-High Brightness Direct Diode Lasers 85W to 575W

PCB Laser Marking System

PCB Laser Marking Systems

RELATED COMPANIES

Lighthouse Photonics Inc

Provides sealed, turn-key, cost-effective, diode-pumped solid-state (DPSS) lasers for s...

Fibertek Inc

Specializes in the design, development, manufacture, and testing of advanced diode-pump...

Control Micro Systems Inc

Offers laser marking, laser cutting, laser drilling and laser welding systems for a wid...

Social Activity

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Copyright © 2007-2014. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS