On Friday USEC announced a “path to provide interim funding” through March for research at the company’s American Centrifuge Plant as it continues to pursue government support for the uranium enrichment venture.USEC did not elaborate further, saying only that it had identified the “path to funding” with the Department of Energy. The fate of a $300 million research, development and demonstration project at the plant remains uncertain, and it would require an appropriation from Congress or funds from transfers of depleted uranium from USEC to DOE. USEC will continue to work with DOE and legislators to procure further funding. The R&D program would involve the construction of at least one complete cascade of machines so USEC’s enrichment technology could be tested at commercial scale.The impetus for the American Centrifuge Plant arose from a technology transfer from DOE of a uranium enrichment process that is significantly more efficient than the gaseous diffusion technology at DOE’s existing enrichment facilities. USEC began developing and demonstrating the new gas centrifuge technology in 2002. The company began building the new plant in Piketon, Ohio, in 2007, but the project stalled last fall after more than three years of unsuccessful negotiations for a $2 billion DOE loan guarantee to support the project.
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