Source: World Nuclear News | May 4, 2018

US enriched uranium supplier Centrus Energy Corporation has signed a long-term agreement with French company Orano to provide it with separative work units (SWU) from 2020.

The agreement was signed on 27 April and will further expand Centrus’ enrichment supply base to support customer requirements, the Bethesda, Maryland-based company said yesterday. It will see Orano, operator of the 7.5 million SWU/year Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment plant in France, provide Centrus with access to 6 million SWU over a period of up to ten years.

The contract provides for deliveries from 2023 to 2028, with options for 2029 and 2030. Centrus said it will have “significant flexibility” to adjust its purchase quantities as needed to meet sales and delivery requirements, subject to minimum purchase obligations.

Centrus President and CEO Daniel Poneman said the new agreement enhanced the company’s ability to meet the needs of current and future customers and reflected its commitment to be the “most diversified” global supplier of enriched uranium. “The added supply will help us compete for new sales opportunities around the world so that we can continue to pursue our long-term goal of re-establishing a domestic uranium enrichment capability,” he said.

Antoine Troesch, senior executive vice president of Orano’s Chemistry and Enrichment Business Unit, said the contract reinforced the companies’ “strong relationship” with the goal of enhancing diversity and security of supply. “This contract shows the trust in Georges Besse II, our state-of-the-art enrichment facility in Tricastin, France,” he said.

Centrus, created in 2014 from the restructuring of US uranium enrichment company USEC, does not currently have any enrichment capacity of its own. It operated the American Centrifuge demonstration uranium enrichment plant in Ohio, and since its closure in 2016 has carried out engineering and testing work on US-origin uranium enrichment technology under contract to the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Although plans for a full-scale American Centrifuge Plant were shelved, Centrus and the DOE continue to preserve and advance the technology to support future national security and energy security needs.

The company, whose order book stood at USD1.3 billion at the end of 2017, also has a long-term supply agreement with Russian enrichment company Tenex. Its supply base also includes existing inventory and “other sources of supply around the world”.

The only uranium enrichment capacity currently operating in the USA is Urenco USA’s centrifuge enrichment plant at Eunice, New Mexico, which uses European enrichment technology.

SWU is a measure of the necessary work to separate uranium-235 from uranium-238 in the enrichment process.