First New U.S. Nuclear Facility In 30 Years Could Open In 2009

The $1.5 billion National Enrichment Facility in New Mexico just received its license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The facility will produce the enriched uranium that powers nuclear energy plants. Construction may begin in August.

"A Kentucky facility owned by the Energy Department and operated by a privatized federal corporation is currently the only source of enriched uranium for commercial U.S. nuclear power plants."

"Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., a longtime supporter of nuclear power, said the license was important not only for Louisiana Energy Services, a consortium of nuclear companies, 'but for what this facility will mean for the renaissance of nuclear energy in this country.'"

"Jim Ferland, president of Louisiana Energy Services, said the nuclear power industry watched the plant's licensing process closely, viewing it as a bellwether for them to consider applying for licenses for new nuclear power plants."

"Critics argued that disposal costs could leave New Mexico stuck with the project's nuclear waste. But the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled May 31 that uncertainties over waste disposal costs are irrelevant; the agreement with New Mexico calls for hundreds of millions of dollars to be set aside for waste disposal.

The plant would generate a form of waste that no U.S. disposal site can handle, and no U.S. processing facility exists that can convert the waste into lower-level radioactive material. The plant could run at full capacity for eight to 10 years before running out of onsite space for the material."

Full Story: U.S. Grants License to N.M. Uranium Plant

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