July 26, 2008

USEC Wants DOE Help to Build Piketon, Ohio, Plant

By The Paducah Sun, Ky.

Jul. 26--USEC -- Inc. is counting on financial help from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a $3.5 billion uranium-enrichment factory in Piketon, Ohio, to replace the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant starting in 2012.

The Bethesda, Md., firm said Friday that it has applied under new federal legislation authorizing DOE to issue $38.5 billion in loan guarantees through fall 2009, including $2 billion for advanced "front-end" nuclear fuel-cycle facilities.

USEC said it believes the Piketon plant qualifies because it represents the early commercial use of a new or significantly improved technology and will significantly reduces air pollution and greenhouse gases. USEC has upgraded decades-old gas centrifuge technology, which uses far less electricity and space than the outdated system at the 1,100-job Paducah plant.

But nuclear industry analysts remain skeptical about centrifuge plant funding and commercial viability. The current cost is more than double the $1.7 million original projection. Earlier this year, USEC blamed soaring costs of materials, labor, commodities, specialty items and other factors.

USEC, which has tried to secure private investment partners, said Friday that it now views the DOE loan guarantee as the way to pay for the plant.



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