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July 29, 2015

Former USEC Uranium Enrichment Project Marked for $110 Million Under Senate Bill


Source: USEC, Inc., American Centrifuge Project in Piketon, Ohio.

Senate appropriators want to allocate $110 million for the American Centrifuge Project in Piketon, Ohio, formerly headed by USEC, Inc.

“The committee directs that the Department of Energy shall use these funds only to maintain existing centrifuges and facilities associated with domestic enrichment capabilities and safeguard intellectual property rights,” the Senate Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee wrote in the report accompanying its fiscal 2015 bill.

The bill stalled last month, but it’s possible that the allocation could survive in other spending legislation. Half of the appropriations would be held until the department provides an inventory of available enriched uranium and a basis for developing a national security train.

The troubled project hit a snag when USEC announced plans to file for bankruptcy last year, citing a miserable market for commercial uranium enrichment. The technology was also intended to supply low enriched uranium that is used to produce tritium for nuclear warheads and must be refined using U.S. technology because of treaty obligations. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory took over managing the project in May, though Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz said USEC could remain involved as a subcontractor.

With dim prospects for the passage of the Energy-Water bill, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he hoped to secure enough funding to maintain the current operations under an expected continuing resolution that would keep the government running into fiscal 2015.

“We’re trying to get into the CR some language,” he said Tuesday. “Keep enough spinning so that you have the capability there.”

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