Energy | Ecotrope

Feds permit Idaho uranium enrichment plant

Ecotrope | Oct. 12, 2011 12:38 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:34 p.m.

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As the U.S. signs off on a new uranium enrichment facility in eastern Idaho, questions remain about whether the extra fuel will be necessary and when France's Areva will start building the plant.

As the U.S. signs off on a new uranium enrichment facility in eastern Idaho, questions remain about whether the extra fuel will be necessary and when France's Areva will start building the plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed off today on a proposal to build a uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls.

The $3 billion Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility is a key part of a plan by France’s nuclear giant Areva to expand production of nuclear fuel in the U.S.

The project has a $2 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy as well as some state tax breaks, according to this story from CBS News.

Areva hasn’t given the final word on when construction will begin on the gas centrifuge enrichment plant.

CBS reports the plant would produce enough uranium to fill about a quarter of the demand from U.S. nuclear power plants, thought he fuel wouldn’t all stay here. The U.S. gets a large portion of its enriched uranium from Russia through a weapons reduction program that expires in 2013. That was a big part of the reason the U.S. Department of Energy approved loan backing for the Idaho project last year.

However, as CBS reports, Areva competitor Urenco USA has a similar plant up and running in New Mexico that got permission in August to double its capacity. Critics say the extra fuel from the Idaho plant isn’t needed – especially after Japan’s nuclear plant meltdown cast doubts about nuclear energy earlier this year.

Supporters of the project, including U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), say the plant will create more than a thousand new jobs in Idaho with technology that is tested and proven to work.

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