Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant (USA) - Current Issues
(last updated 19 May 2022)
> See also Current Issues for
(formerly "National Enrichment Facility")
NRC Docket No.
NRC License No. SNM-2010
Aerial view: Google Maps · MSRMaps
> See also:
Spill at Urenco USA enrichment plant
On February 28, 2022, water was discovered on the floor of the Liquid Effluent Collection and Transfer System (LECTS) room. The water was leaking from the slab tanks berm into the non-Radiological Controlled Area floor. The area was conservatively and promptly roped off and signage was posted. Radiological readings in the area were taken and found to be less than background and the the spill was cleaned up that day.
> View: Event Notification Report for April 28, 2022, Event Number 55861
> View: Event Notification Report for May 18, 2022, Event Number 55861
On February 28, 2022, licensee staff noticed that there was water on the floor of the LECTS [liquid effluent collection and treatment system] room. The licensee determined that it was leaking from a slab tank berm into the adjacent non-radiologically controlled area floor. The condition was reported to the licensee's control room as a radiological spill, the area was roped off and posted, and personnel near the area completed personnel monitoring to verify that they had not been contaminated. However, for reportability purposes, the licensee treated the spill as water, based on a radiation survey of the spill area that found that the area radiation levels were typical of those caused only by background radiation. This was documented in their CAP as EV 149668.
During a walkdown on March 22, 2022, NRC inspectors observed that portions of the spill area were still roped off. The NRC inspectors interviewed licensee staff and reviewed radiation survey records and found that cleanup of the spill had continued for a week or more after discovery.
The licensee estimated the uranium concentration and enrichment of the spill from samples of the LECTS slab tank's contents. This was used with the estimated spill volume to determine that the total estimated activity of the spill was around 24 microcuries (µCi) [888,000 Bq], which is greater than "five times the lowest annual limit on intake specified in Appendix B of §§ 20.1001-20.2401 of 10 CFR part 20" for uranium; which is 5 µCi [185,000 Bq].
> Download: Integrated Inspection Report, Apr. 29, 2022 (PDF)
Construction vehicles allowed in controlled area of Urenco USA enrichment plant before appropriate physical barriers were in place
Three construction vehicles, a front end loader, road grader and roller, were allowed within the Controlled Access Area [CAA] boundary without IROFS50b and IROFS50c [Items Relied on for Safety] being declared Operable.
> View: Event Notification Report for March 8, 2022, Event Number 55770
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has launched a special inspection at the Urenco USA uranium enrichment facility in Eunice, New Mexico, to review the circumstances involving a March 2 event during which construction vehicles entered a controlled area before appropriate physical barriers were in place.
> Download: NRC Begins Special Inspection at Urenco USA Facility , NRC, Mar. 21, 2022 (PDF)
As part of the extent of condition review for EN55770, UUSA [Urenco USA] identified historical instances where construction vehicles may have been allowed near buildings of concern and our process failed to identify if controls needed to be established for the activities planned.
> View: Event Notification Report for March 28, 2022, Event Number 55802
On Apr. 25, 2022, event notification EN 55770 was retracted, while EN 55802 is not retracted.
> View: Event Notification Report for April 26, 2022, Event Number 55770
NRC approves triennial rather than annual decommissioning funding updates for Urenco USA enrichment plant
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has reviewed the Louisiana Energy Services, LLC (LES) letter dated August 3, 2021 (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System [ADAMS] Accession No. ML21217A141 ), requesting approval to modify the submission timeframe for updated decommissioning cost estimates to a triennial basis. They are currently required by Materials License SNM-2010, license condition 16(d) to be submitted annually.
The NRC staff has reviewed the request and concludes that LES has demonstrated the proposed change to license condition 16d is appropriate and consistent with the applicable regulations and provides reasonable assurance of adequate financial assurance.
> Download: NRC approval letter and enclosures , Dec. 20, 2021
Urenco USA considers further increase of enrichment from 5.5% to 10%
"Louisiana Energy Services, LLC, also dba [doing business as] Urenco USA (UUSA), hereby requests a revision to the existing UUSA MCNP6 [computer code] Validation Report and an amendment to the UUSA Safety Analysis Report (SAR). [...]
The proposed changes in this LAR [License Amendment Request] are only related to MCNP6 and:
(License Amendment Request for Revision for Urenco USA (UUSA) MCNP6 Validation Report (LAR 21-03), Dec. 10, 2021 )
- revises the range of uranium enrichment evaluated in the UUSA MCNP6 Validation Report to support increasing the U-235 enrichment licensed limit from 5.5 weight percent (wt%) U-235 to up to 10 wt% U-235 and allows additional flexibility for potential further enrichment increases for future activities [...]"
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant: substitute solution fails as well(!)
"On November 5th, 2021, [1207 MDT] it was identified that a portable Area Radiation Monitor (ARM), which was performing the 10 CFR 70.24 safety function of the Criticality Accident Alarm System (CAAS) to energize clearly audible alarm signals if accidental criticality occurs, had been removed from the area in error.
On July 20th, 2021, during routine CAAS maintenance, UUSA [Urenco USA] staff identified an area in which a CAAS alarm was not clearly audible. UUSA arranged the ARM as a compensatory measure which achieves an equivalent 10 CFR 70.24 safety function in the affected area. UUSA reported this event to the NRC under Event Notification 55480 in accordance with 10 CFR 70.50(b)(2) in which equipment is disabled or fails to function as designed when required by regulation." [see below]
> View: Event Notification Report for November 08, 2021, Event Number: 55564 (NRC)
> Access: 30 Day Report , LES, Dec. 3, 2021
However, on Jan. 7, 2022, the above Event Notification was retracted, after Urenco revised the calculations defining the Immediate Evacuation Zone (IEZ). The affected location is now outside of the IEZ. Therefore, Criticality Accident Alarm System (CAAS) equipment was not required.
> View: Event Notification Report for January 10, 2022, Event Number: 55564 (NRC)
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
One July 20, 2021, during the 2021 annual CAAS maintenance, licensee employees identified that the CAAS [Criticality Accident Alarm System] was not clearly audible in room 242 of the Technical Services Building (TSB).
> Download: Integrated Inspection Report, Oct. 29, 2021 (NRC)
> View: Event Notification Report for September 24, 2021, Event Number: 55480 (NRC)
During the Apparent Cause Evaluation related to Event Notification 55480, an extent of condition was performed. This extent of condition revealed three historical examples of inaudible CAAS alarms that were not reported under 10 CFR 70.50(b)(2) as required by regulation.
These conditions occurred on April 12th, 2014, August 15th, 2014, and August 20th, 2015.
> View: Event Notification Report for November 09, 2021, Event Number: 55480 (NRC)
NRC approves Urenco USA's request to skip evacuation drill in view of COVID-19 restrictions
On Dec. 16, 2020, Louisiana Energy Services (LES) requested relief from a license commitment to conduct an annual evacuation drill. The drill cannot be performed because New Mexico Public Health Orders limit the number of people that can gather in the assembly areas. LES is requesting that the drill be delayed until calendar year 2021.
On Dec. 23, 2020, NRC approved the request by temporarily changing the commitment to perform an annual evacuation drill for the criticality alarm from annual to biennial.
Urenco records further EUR 500 million impairment charge on value of its Lea County enrichment plant
"An impairment test on the CGU [cash generating unit] of its US operations as at 31 December 2019 has been completed which showed that the carrying value of its assets exceeded the recoverable amount of EUR 1,573.0 million for the USA operations, resulting in a pre-tax impairment charge of EUR 500.0 million (EUR 446.0 million post tax)."
This comes after the EUR 760 million pre-tax impairment charge recognized in 2016. The 2019 impairment was "due to long-term SWU prices being forecasted at a lower level than previously projected". In addition, "the tails provisions for the US enrichment business were adversely impacted by an increase in the unit tails rates."
(Urenco Annual Report 2019)
Urenco USA shipped enriched uranium hexafluoride in cylinder without cap gasket
"On April 5, 2019, UUSA [Urenco USA] shipped a full 30B cylinder [...] within a UX-30 shipping package to the Westinghouse Fuel Fabrication Facility at Columbia South Carolina. On October 19, 2019, Westinghouse plant operators started to put the cylinder online to process. Upon removing the cylinder valve cap, the operators discovered that the cap gasket was missing. [...]
> Download: 60 Day Report, Dec. 18, 2019 (PDF)
The purpose of the cap gasket is to prevent any loss or dispersal of possible contamination from the valve's internal space and also to protect the valve from intrusion of dirt and/or water from the outside. The cap gasket is not part of the pressure retaining containment of the valve. A missing cap gasket could result in increased risk of minor contamination of the internals of the UX-30 package or intrusion of dirt and/or water to the cylinder valve. It is likely that the installed cap, without the gasket, would have performed this same function, therefore the safety consequences of this event are low."
On Nov. 12, 2019, Urenco USA requested NRC to remove the license condition (established on Oct. 30, 2013) constraining the increase of the enrichment limit from 5.0% to 5.5%:
"[...] this request is to remove the operational constraint, which will allow
UUSA to not only possess, but also produce enriched UF6 at 5.5 wt. % 235U."
> Download: License Amendment Request , Nov. 12, 2019 (PDF)
> Download: License SNM-2010, Amendment 83 , Feb. 7, 2019 (PDF)
> Download: Request for Additional Information , Feb. 7, 2020 (PDF)
NRC approved the requested license amendment on May 19, 2020, subject to an operational readiness review to be performed by the NRC. (ML20119A043 )
> See also: Urenco USA requests permission to increase enrichment limit from 5.0% to 5.5%
Security violation at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"On October 10, 2019, at approximately 1830 MDT, a responsible individual at Louisiana Energy Services LLC, dba URENCO USA, was informed that on June 5, 2018, at approximately 1600 MDT, pressure instrument isolation valve, 1001-471-1A12, was found open when it should have been shut to maintain the pressure boundary of autoclave 1LS1. The autoclave is used to homogenize UF6 and obtain samples. The autoclave pressure boundary forms IROFS10 [Item Relied on for Safety]. [...]"
> View: Event Notification Report, Event Number: 54324 , Oct. 18, 2019
> Download: 60 day written follow-up report , Nov. 1, 2019 (PDF)
Security violation at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"Apparent Cause Evaluation, ER Number: 132253, Event Date: 06/01/2019:
During the 1LS1 Recovery, 1001-471-1A12, 1MP6 Isolation was found open. During the connect procedure, this valve should have been ensured closed. [...]
471-1A12 is an isolation boundary for IROFS10 [Items Relied On For Safety] and failing to ensure this valve closed during the connect sequence, allowed for the autoclave to be placed in operation without ensuring IROFS10 integrity. The resulted in a 24 hour report to the NRC.
A review of approved procedures reveals the requirement to position the 471-1A12 in the closed position every time the autoclave is connected. The apparent cause of this event is complacency when performing a routine evolution. [...]"
> Event Notification Report, June 4, 2019, Event Number: 54101 (withheld)
> 60 day written follow-up report, July 25, 2019 (withheld)
> Download: 60 Day Written Supplement for Event Notification 54101 , Sep. 11, 2019 (PDF)
Lunchbox-based security breach incident at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"While working at the facility in 2016, the former contract employee was found to have placed a small classified component in another contract employee's lunchbox and that employee unknowingly removed the component from the facility. That employee discovered the component at his home, secured it and returned it to facility security. An NRC investigation found that the former contract employee had been responsible for the removal of the component and had engaged in deliberate misconduct."
> Download: NRC News Release Sep. 6, 2019 (PDF)
> Download: NRC Inspection Report and Notice of Violation, Sep. 5, 2019 (PDF)
> Download: NRC Order prohibiting involvement in NRC-licensded activities, Sep. 5, 2019 (PDF)
> Federal Register Volume 84, Number 175 (Tuesday, September 10, 2019) p. 47558-47561 (download full text )
[The NRC release raises more questions than it answers in this mysterious affair. And: shouldn't the former contract employee be honored for pointing out gaps in the plant's security?]
NRC identifies violation at Urenco USA enrichment plant in connection with dropped cylinder containing enriched uranium
"A Severity Level IV, self-revealing, non-cited violation (NCV) of Section 2.3.4 of the SAR
was identified for the licensee's failure to ensure that activities involving licensed
materials were conducted through the use of approved, written procedures. Specifically,
the licensee failed to follow procedure LO-3-2000-12, which required the container
handler to visually verify that the rigging was properly attached prior to the lifting of a
30B cylinder. Failure to follow procedure contributed to an event involving a dropped
30B cylinder in the UF6 Handling Area."
> Download: NRC Inspection Report July 31, 2019 (PDF)
Urenco USA announces intent to request permission to increase enrichment limit from 5.5% to 10%:
On Apr. 1, 2021, Urenco USA notified NRC of its intent to submit a license amendment request to increase the enrichment limit from 5.5 wt.% U-235 to 10 wt.% U-235.
Urenco announces progress with preparations for enriching up to 10% U-235 ("LEU+") at its U.S. and UK enrichment plants:
"Urenco's programme to enable the production of LEU+, enriched uranium up to 10% U235, at its US and UK sites (Urenco UK and UUSA) is progressing quickly with the completion of detailed technical feasibility and plant optimisation plans. [...]
This new product can be used in existing light water reactors seeking to achieve higher levels of safety and improved economics. Urenco's existing advanced gas centrifuge technology is capable of producing it and few modifications will be needed to the current facilities at Urenco UK and UUSA.
LEU+ is a positive initial step towards the subsequent potential production of other next generation fuels, as announced previously [Feb. 5, 2019]."
(Urenco Apr. 1, 2021)
Groups reiterate concern over proliferation hazard from Urenco USA's High assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) project in view of Iran's decision to force enrichment to 20%:
Twelve environmental organisations from Germany and the Netherlands have again raised their concern over Urenco USA's proposal for the construction of a High assay low enriched uranium unit. They deplore the bad example given by the enricher in view of Iran's recent decision to enrich uranium up to 20% at its Fordo site. (Laka Jan. 11, 2021)
Groups raise concern over proliferation hazard from Urenco USA's High assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) project:
The German section of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and several other anti-nuclear groups raised their concern over the increasing proliferation hazard from Urenco USA's proposal for the construction of a High assay low enriched uranium unit.
> View: IPPNW Germany release Mar. 5, 2019 (in German)
Urenco USA considers construction of high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) unit:
On 5 February 2019, Urenco USA Inc., announced its capability in the provision of high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU). HALEU (U-235 enriched up to 19.75 per cent) is a subcategory of LEU (U-235 enriched up to no more than 20.00 per cent).
A new program at Urenco covers the production of HALEU. Urenco's advanced gas centrifuge technology is capable of producing the full range of LEU enrichments, including HALEU.
Several Urenco enrichment facilities are already licensed to produce at enrichments above 5% U-235 in line with today's nuclear industry market requirements. Urenco is now exploring the construction of a dedicated HALEU unit at the Urenco USA facility. Urenco is progressing the design engineering and related licensing activities to support this project.
> See also: High Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU)
On Dec. 18, 2018, Urenco USA submitted to NRC a license amendment request to reduce the amount of the required Nuclear Liability Insurance for its Lea County enrichment plant from $300 million to $100 million.
On Mar. 13, 2020, Urenco USA revised the request, now requesting the liability insurance limit be reduced from $300 million to $200 million.
On Apr. 29, 2020, NRC approved Urenco USA's request to reduce the amount of the required Nuclear Liability Insurance for its Lea County enrichment plant from $300 million to $200 million.
NRC determines that violation of fire protection regulations occured at Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant
"[...] from February 2 to June 5, 2018, there were several instances where the licensee did not prevent the use of OTR [over-the-road] semi-tractors with fuel quantity (1135 L or 300 gallons) exceeding the limits of IROFS36c to move semi-trailers with UF6 cylinders into the CRDB [Cylinder Receipt and Dispatch Building]."
(NRC Integrated Inspection Report Oct. 16, 2018)
Irregularities identified at overpack of cylinder holding enriched uranium hexafluoride supplied by Urenco USA
On July 23, 2018, UUSA Logistics Planning received notification from GNF-A shipping
that an UX-30 overpack of a Type 30B cylinder filled with enriched uranium hexafluoride had two 2'' ball lock pins not in place upon entering the GNF-A site.
Upon noticing 2 of the 10 ball locking pins were missing, the pins were replaced and
returned to a normal conforming condition prior to any further transport.
> Download: 60 Day report, Urenco USA , Sep. 19, 2018 (PDF)
On May 30, 2018, Louisiana Energy Services, LLC, (LES) sent a License Amendment Request (LAR) to NRC, requesting permission to feed UF6 greater than 0.72 wt% 235U; but less than 1 wt% 235U. Detailed documents on the request, including the basis for the change, are withheld from public disclosure, however.
> Download LES letter, May 30, 2018
[possibly this must be seen in connection with Urenco's announcement to enrich reprocessed uranium? See here]
On Oct. 25, 2018, NRC notified LES that the application does not contain sufficient technical information; NRC sent LES an undisclosed Request for Supplemental Information.
> Download: NRC letter Oct. 25, 2018 (PDF)
On Nov. 2, 2018, LES withdrew its license amendment request.
> Download: LES letter to NRC, Nov. 2, 2018 (PDF)
In addition, on July 5, 2018, LES applied for an export license to return heeled cylinders with a max. enrichment of 1 wt% back to Cameco's Port Hope, Ontario, conversion plant (heels are the highly radioactive residue remaining in the cylinder after unloading of the uranium hexafluoride).
> Download: Export license application, July 5, 2018 (PDF)
NRC finds undisclosed security violation at Urenco USA enrichment plant
> Download NRC Inspection Report, Jan. 4, 2018 (PDF)
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"During a self initiated review, ISA [Integrated Safety Analysis] Staff performed a preliminary review of the ISA to determine whether or not there was a chemical safety issue concerning the proximity of combustible fuel to the yard tractors/shuttle lifts that UUSA's [Urenco USA] Logistics organization uses to move UF6 [Uranium Hexa Fluoride] cylinders around outside on site.
ISA staff determined that the ISA lacked sufficient information regarding the proximity of combustible fuel to the IROFS36c [Item Relied Upon for Safety] controlled yard tractors/shuttle lifts. ISA determined that revisions to one, or more, of the applicable IROFS Boundary Definition Documents was necessary to establish operator actions to ensure that the volumetric fuel limit is not compromised due to the proximity of other fuel sources, therefore UUSA is conservatively making this report.
UUSA remains in a safe and stable condition. UUSA Logistics has issued a stop work that prohibits applicable cylinders from traveling where proximity to combustible fuel could occur."
> Download: Event Notification Report for January 26, 2018, Event Number: 53183 , U.S. NRC
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant: NRC proposes US$ 35,000 penalty
"[...] UUSA [URENCO USA] discovered a product cylinder that had been introduced to the process inadvertently as a new or washed cylinder when it in fact was a heeled cylinder. The discrepancy caused the incorrect IROFS [Items Relied On For Safety] to be applied when connecting the cylinder to the process; [...] A criticality DID NOT occur. [...]"
The event occurred on Sep. 7, 2017 but was not discovered until 1511 MDT on Oct. 30, 2017.
> View: Event Notification Report for November 1, 2017, Event Number: 53046 , U.S. NRC
> View: Event Notification Report for November 3, 2017, Event Number: 53046 , U.S. NRC (Update)
On Apr. 12, 2018, NRC issued in Integrated Inspection Report indentifying a related apparent violation involving "the failure to implement administrative criticality controls for a product cylinder".
> Download: Integrated Inspection Report 70-3103/2018-002, Apr. 12, 2018 , U.S. NRC (PDF)
On June 14, 2018, NRC issued a Notice of Violation to Urenco USA, categorizing the violation Severity Level III [a very rare occurence!] and considering a civil penalty of US$ 35,000.
> Download: Notice of Violation, June 15, 2018 (PDF)
Loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"Last week material from the pH adjustment tanks on the LECTS [Liquid Effluent Collection and Transfer System] slab tanks was moved into the SCDT [Small Component Decontamination Train] without the use of administrative criticality control IROFS54a and 54b [Items Relied On For Safety]."
> View: Event Notification Report for August 9, 2017, Event Number: 52886 , U.S. NRC
In May, Urenco was awarded a US$ 500 million contract to supply enriched uranium for TVA's reactors Watts Bar and Sequoyah. These are special nuclear power reactors that produce tritium required for nuclear weapons as a by-product. In view of Vienna risk researcher Wolfgang Liebert, this constitutes a violation of the non-proliferation treaty. German Member of Parliament and former environmental minister Jürgen Tritten says that this violates the tripartite treaty of Almelo which is the basis for the operation of Urenco.
(Tagesschau June 14, 2017)
Urenco sees no obstacles to any deliveries of enriched uranium for the use in special nuclear power reactors that produce tritium required for nuclear weapons as a by-product. Due to its short half-life of twelve years, approximately 6% of the tritium in the U.S. nuclear warheads must be replaced on an annual basis.
The current U.S. policy prevents the use of foreign technology for nuclear weapons, but this might be watered down, as the United States - after the shutdown of their gaseous diffusion plants - no longer have the capacity for the enrichment of uranium.
(Tagesschau May 10, 2017)
NRC to impose civil penalty on Urenco for multiple security violations at its USA enrichment plant
Based on an Inspection Report issued on May 29, 2015, "documenting the initial review of events associated with the security program" and subsequent investigations, NRC identified (undisclosed) apparent violations at LES' Eunice enrichment facility, based on which it proposes the imposition of a civil penalty.
> Download: NRC cover letter to LES, EA-15-218 , Mar. 3, 2017 (PDF)
Note: The attached Notice of Violation and Proposed Imposition of Civil Penalty and the Severity Level and Civil Penalty Assessment are withheld from public disclosure.
> Download: NRC cover letter to Mr. Pieter van der Heide, IA-16-029 , Mar. 3, 2017 (PDF)
Note: The attached Notice of Violation and further documents are withheld from public disclosure.
NRC finds loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
"[...] on July 8, 2013, and October 11, 2016, the licensee failed to obtain prior NRC approval for changes to specific sections of the SAR [Safety Analysis Report] Chapter 5 that resulted in modifying the current values for criticality-based analysis in a less
conservative direction. Specifically, the licensee failed to obtain prior NRC approval for a change to SAR Section 5.1.2, which modified the enrichment value used for criticality-based analysis from 6% 235U to 1% 235U. This modification resulted in a less conservative analytical result for safe mass values. Additionally, the licensee failed to obtain prior NRC approval for changes to SAR Table 5.1-2, which modified the value used for criticality-based analysis from a small, finite mass limit (730g 235U) to a mass that was essentially infinite and therefore not controlled."
Urenco USA receives UF6 cylinder with missing valve cap gasket
On January 29, 2016, Urenco USA received (from an unidentified supplier) a shipment of six 30B containers, each with a heel of enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6). On April 9, as an operator was preparing to connect one of the cylinders to process systems, it was discovered that the valve cap on one of the cylinders had no Teflon disk (cap gasket), as would be expected.
There is high confidence that no leakage occurred during shipment of the cylinder.
Cylinder was transported in a UX-30 over-pack approved per USA_9196_B(U)F-96
Rev32. TID's applied to this over-pack verified no tampering with the over-pack or
cylinder. Receipt checks revealed no external contamination.
(Urenco USA 60 day report to NRC, June 9, 2016)
Occupational radiation doses of Urenco USA employees too low to meter?
"[...] in 2013, the Louisiana Energy Services, LLC, facility stated that it is no longer required to report since there are no individuals expected to receive doses that require monitoring."
> Download: Occupational Radiation Exposure at Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors and Other Facilities 2014 , Forty-Seventh Annual Report, NUREG-0713 Vol. 36, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, April 2016
NRC issues inspection reports for new cascades at Urenco USA enrichment plant
On June 5, 2015, NRC announced the availability of inspection reports prior to the commencement of operations of the new cascades 5.1 through 5.7.
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 108 (Friday, June 5, 2015) p. 32184-32185 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044
Urenco USA to slow down expansion of New Mexico enrichment plant from 2016
In 2014 Urenco completed Phase II of its capacity expansion project at Urenco USA. The first 50% of Phase III capacity is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of 2015, increasing site capacity to 4,700 tSW/a [4.7 million SWU/a]. A slowed installation of the remaining capacity is planned to start in 2016 to reflect the current market conditions, with the total anticipated capacity [5.7 million SWU/a] not being reached until into the next decade.
(Urenco Mar. 5, 2015)
On Dec. 15, 2014, Urenco USA requested a license amendment increasing the allowed amount of depleted UF6 stored on site from 15,727 type 48Y cylinders to 25,000 type 48Y cylinders.
> Download: Urenco request Dec. 15, 2014 (514k PDF)
> See also: NRC approves massive increase of amount of depleted UF6 stored onsite at Urenco USA enrichment plant
Goldman Sachs stored unenriched uranium hexafluoride at Urenco USA enrichment plant
> View Goldman Sachs to wind down uranium trading business - after U.S. Senate report sheds some light on it, raising a number of issues
Urenco USA requests significant increase in possession mass limits and permission to utilize high assay tails as enrichment feed
On June 17, 2014, Urenco USA submitted a request to NRC
On July 24, 2014, NRC announced an opportunity to request a hearing and to petition for leave to intervene. Requests must be filed by September 22, 2014.
- to utilize high assay tails (depleted natural uranium) as feed material for the
- to increase the possession mass limit for both natural and depleted uranium from 136,120,000 kg to a new limit of 251,000,000 kg,
- to increase the enriched uranium possession mass limit from 545,000 kg, to 2,180,000 kg
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 142 (Thursday, July 24, 2014) p. 43099-43104 (download full text )
> Download Redacted - Supplement to License Amendment Request for Capacity Expansion of URENCO USA Facility , June 17, 2014 (ML14171A092)
> Download License Amendment Application form, Jan. 7, 2015 (ML15028A138)
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044
Urenco USA enrichment plant reaches capacity of 3.7 million SWU/a
On Apr. 9, 2014, Urenco USA announced the introduction of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) into the last centrifuge cascade of Phase II. The completion of Phase II brings the enrichment capacity to approximately 3.7 million separative work units (SWU) of production capability.
On June 24, 2014, NRC announced the availability of inspection reports prior to the commencement of operations of the new cascades.
> Federal Register Volume 79, Number 121 (Tuesday, June 24, 2014) p. 35817-35818 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264
NRC finds loss of criticality controls at Urenco USA enrichment plant
During an inspection conducted from November 18-21, 2013, NRC identified a loss of criticality controls due to inadequate implementation of items relied on for safety (IROFS) in the small component decontamination train (SCDT).
> Download Inspection Report Feb. 7, 2014 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML14028A073)
A predecisional enforcement conference was scheduled for Feb. 28, 2014. (NRC Feb. 21, 2014)
Urenco USA enrichment plant starts operation of new cascades
On Oct. 24, 2013, NRC announced the availability of inspection reports prior to the commencement of operations of the new cascades.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 206 (Thursday, October 24, 2013) p. 63518-63519 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264
Urenco USA enrichment plant reaches capacity of 3 million SWU/a
On Sep. 16, 2013, Urenco announced that the activation of the newest centrifuge cascade brings the enrichment plant to slightly over 3 million separative work units (SWU) of production capacity.
Urenco USA plans to re-enrich depleted uranium
On Aug. 8, 2013, NRC announced a closed meeting with Louisiana Energy Services, LLC, on Aug. 22, 2013, with the purpose: "a pre-application discussion of a license amendment request to add re-feed capability to the Urenco USA facility".
NRC issues Notice of Violation to Urenco USA for forgeries facilitating installation of inferior quality components at Lea County enrichment plant
"[...] a LES contractor employee forged the initials and signature of an LES Quality Control (QC) Inspector in the QC Verification block of the Construction Work Plan Material List (EG-3-6000-01-F-5), and the Warehouse Material Identification and Control, Material Requisition form (PR-3-3000-03-F-2), to allow for the installation of non-QL 1 bolts in the Centrifuge Cooling Water of Cascade 2. These forgeries facilitated the installation of QL-3 bolts and nuts in place of the required QL-1 bolts and nuts."
> Download Inspection Report , July 29, 2013
On July 16, 2013, Urenco requested NRC to issue a license amendment for the Urenco USA facility to increase the enrichment limit from 5.0% to 5.5%.
NRC approved the request on Oct. 30, 2013, subject to conditions: "UUSA shall not produce product material in excess of 5.0 wt. % U-235 other than in the course of cascade performance adjustments, thus providing the operational flexibility to generate material to satisfactorily fulfill customer orders up to the 5.0 wt. % U-235 limit."
> See also: Urenco USA requests unconditional permission to increase enrichment limit from 5.0% to 5.5%
NRC issues License Amendment for capacity expansion of Urenco USA's Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
On March 23, 2015, NRC issued the license amendment approving the capacity expansion of Urenco USA's Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a.
NRC issues Environmental Assessment for capacity expansion of Urenco USA's Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
> Federal Register Volume 80, Number 53 (Thursday, March 19, 2015) p. 14416-14417 (download full text )
> Download Environmental Assessment, March 2015 (3MB PDF)
NRC announces opportunity to request a hearing and to petition for leave to intervene on capacity expansion of Urenco USA's enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
In November 2012, URENCO USA submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a license amendment request to increase the annual production capability from the present 3 million separative work units (SWU) to 10 million SWU.
Requests for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene must be filed by May 20, 2013.
> Federal Register Volume 78, Number 53 (Tuesday, March 19, 2013) p. 16890-16893 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2013-0044
Urenco Board approves capital expenditure for capacity expansion of Lea County enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
On Dec. 13, 2012, Urenco announced that the URENCO Ltd. Board of Directors has approved the Capital Expenditure Proposal for URENCO USA Phase III.
Urenco USA submits licence application for capacity expansion of enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
> Download licence application, Nov. 9, 2012
Urenco USA submits Supplemental Environmental Report for capacity expansion of enrichment plant from 3 to 10 million SWU/a
> Download: cover letter Sep. 10, 2012
> Download: Supplemental Environmental Report for Facility Capacity Expansion Request, September 2012: Part 1 (31MB PDF) · Part 2 (20MB PDF)
> Download: National Enrichment Facility, Environmental Report, Revision 5, June 2005 (52.9MB PDF)
> Download: Supplemental Environmental Report for Facility Capacity Expansion Request - July 2013 Revision 4c (48MB PDF)
On April 27, 2012, NRC issued a license amendment to LES sharply increasing the allowed amount of depleted UF6 stored on site from 5,016 type 48Y cylinders to 15,727 type 48Y cylinders. In addition, the time limit for onsite storage is increased from 15 years to 25 years.
The amendment follows a request submitted by LES on July 10, 2009. LES further announced that it later will request a further increase to 25,000 cylinders, the amount given in a revised settlement agreement reached with the state of New Mexico.
The originally licensed amount of 5,016 type 48Y cylinders is the cumulative amount that would be produced if the NEF operated for eight years at full capacity, so the license amendments now allows for the storage of the production of 25 years at full capacity.
NRC releases Inspection Reports for Urenco USA enrichment plant prior to the commencement of operations
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 59 (Tuesday, March 27, 2012) p. 18272-18273 (download full text )
> Access Docket ID NRC-2010-0264
NRC approves 4-year license extension for Urenco USA enrichment plant
On May 6, 2011, LES requested an amendment to license SNM-2010 that
would extend the license expiration date to recapture the 48 months
that elapsed from the 2006 license issuance date to when authorization
to introduce uranium hexafluoride (UF6) into Cascade 1 was
granted on June 10, 2010.
The NRC reviewed LES's license amendment request to extend the expiration date from 2036 to 2040, and found no significant environmental impacts from the shift in enrichment operation dates.
> Federal Register Volume 77, Number 40 (Wednesday, February 29, 2012) p. 12333-12335 (download full text )
Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant receives NRC approval to operate fifth cascade
By letter dated Nov. 15, 2011, NRC authorized Urenco USA to introduce uranium hexafluoride into Cascade 1.5.
Urenco USA uranium enrichment plant receives NRC approval to operate two more cascades
A uranium enrichment plant in southeastern New Mexico has received approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin operating two more cascades.
Urenco USA will now have double the capacity for enriching uranium that will supply fuel for nuclear power plants in the United States and overseas.
Urenco spokesman Don Johnson says stock was being fed Wednesday (Aug. 24) into cascade No. 3 and No. 4 would be running within a few days.
(AP Aug. 24. 2011)
Senior Criticality Safety Inspector of NRC raises concern about criticality safety at Urenco USA's uranium enrichment plant
NRC's Senior Criticality Safety Inspector Dennis Morey declared Non-Concurrence in the 2011 LES Licensee Performance Review (LPR) performed by the NRC:
"The LES LPR should contain an Area Needing Improvement (ANI) in Safety Operations that expresses the staff concern that, because the licensee does not appear to understand or maintain the approved margin of subcriticality for safety, including programmatic commitments to technical practices, assurance of subcriticality needs to be improved."
> Download Dennis Morey Non-Concurrence in 2011 LES Licensee Performance Review , Feb. 28, 2011 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML110770438)
> Download 2011 LES Licensee Performance Letter and Enclosure , Mar. 9, 2011 (ADAMS Acc. No. ML110680220)
Urenco's uranium enrichment plant being built in New Mexico eyes expansion to double capacity
A uranium enrichment plant in southeastern New Mexico is eyeing a third expansion that would double the $3 billion plant's capacity.
But the president and chief executive officer of Urenco USA, Gregory Smith, says it's not a done deal.
An expansion would extend the plant's construction for three more years to 2017.
(The Republic Mar. 14, 2011)
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