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

50 YEARS OF GAS LASERS


Durable survivors evolve new forms

Webcasts

Laser Measurements Critical to Successful Additive Manufacturing Processes

Maximizing the stability of the variables going into any manufacturing process is what ensures ts consistency and high quality. Specifically, when a laser is...

Ray Optics Simulations with COMSOL Multiphysics

The Ray Optics Module can be used to simulate electromagnetic wave propagation when the wavelength is much smaller than the smallest geometric entity in the ...

Multichannel Spectroscopy: Technology and Applications

This webcast, sponsored by Hamamatsu, highlights some of the photonic technology used in spectroscopy, and the resulting applications.

Handheld Spectrometers

Spectroscopy is a powerful and versatile tool that traditionally often required a large and bulky instrument. The combination of compact optics and modern pa...
White Papers

Wavelength stabilized multi-kW diode laser systems

Wavelength stabilization of high-power diode laser systems is an important means to increase the ...

Narrow-line fiber-coupled modules for DPAL pumping

A new series of fiber coupled diode laser modules optimized for DPAL pumping is presented, featur...

Accurate LED Source Modeling Using TracePro

Modern optical modeling programs allow product design engineers to create, analyze, and optimize ...
Technical Digests

ADHESIVES, SEALANTS, AND COATINGS: Solutions for optical technologies

A vast array of optical systems of various types and degrees of complexity require the use of adh...

WAVELENGTH-SWEPT LASERS: Dispersion-tuned fiber laser sweeps over a 140 nm range for OCT

By eliminating the use of mechanical tunable filters and instead tuning by intensity-modulation i...

Keeping pace with developments in photonic materials research

For demanding or custom spectroscopy solutions, care must be taken in selecting and integrating a...

HIGH-POWER FIBER LASERS: Working in the kilowatt regime

High-power materials-processing fiber lasers are available in an increasing variety of forms, as ...

Click here to have your products listed in the Laser Focus World Buyers Guide.
Social Activity
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Copyright © 2007-2014. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS