GE Laser Enrichment Facility Licensing
General Electric (GE) currently has exclusive rights to use the SILEX laser separation process to enrich natural UF6 gas in the uranium-235 isotope. GE is planning to conduct the project in two phases, a test phase and a commercial-scale enrichment plant phase. The Test Loop, which was built at GE's nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, advanced the performance and reliability data for the concept. For the commercial-scale plant phase, GE submitted a license application in June 2009. On September 25, 2012, NRC staff issued a construction and operating license for the facility. Due to forecasted pressure on the price of uranium, GE plans to pace the development of the technology with current and future market realities.
On this page:
- Regulation and Legislation
- Environmental Impact Statement
- Correspondence and Other Information
- Public Involvement
- Opportunity for Hearing
- Project Schedule
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Regulation and Legislation
In 1990, Congress passed the Solar, Wind, Waste, and Geothermal Power Production Incentives Act. Among other things, this legislation amended the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to require licensing of uranium enrichment facilities under U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations in 10 CFR Parts 40 and 70. The act also stated that the construction and operation of a uranium enrichment facility is considered a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment for the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. Therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) needs to be prepared for this type of facility. Under the legislation, an adjudicatory hearing on the licensing of the construction and operation is required. This hearing must be completed before issuance of a license. The act also requires the applicant to obtain public liability insurance for the facility and requires the NRC to inspect the facility before operations begin to ensure that the plant is constructed to meet the license requirements. The Safety Evaluation Report for the licensing review was issued on February 28, 2012.
In July 2007, GE submitted a license amendment request to the NRC for research and development associated with laser enrichment to be conducted at their Wilmington, NC, Global Nuclear Fuels-Americas, LLC, facility. On May 12, 2008, NRC approved the amendment. GE has constructed the test loop illustrating the SILEX laser isotope separation process.
On January 30, 2009, GE submitted an Environmental Report for its proposed commercial enrichment plant. A public meeting to obtain input on areas to consider in the preparation of the EIS was held on May 19, 2009, in Wilmington, NC.
On June 26, 2009, GE submitted a license application for a full-scale commercial facility. NRC staff reviewed the application and issued a construction and operating license on September 25, 2012. The full-scale commercial facility was subject to a mandatory hearing.
On November 19, 2009, NRC sent GE publically releasable Requests for Additional Informationon the license application to address questions that developed during the technical review of the application. On December 28, 2009, GE provided responses to these Requests for Additional Information. On December 4, 2009, December 16, 2009, January 11, 2010, and March 10, 2010, NRC sent GE additional Requests for Additional Information that contained proprietary, security-related, and Export Controlled Information. On June 25, 2010, GE submitted a revision to its publically available license application. Revision 3 of the publicly available license application was submitted on December 16, 2010, and Revision 4 was submitted on March 29, 2011; Revision 5 was submitted on August 1, 2011, and August 12, 2011; Revision 6 was submitted on October 14, 2011; and Revision 7 was submitted on August 20, 2012. The construction and operating license was issued on September 25, 2012.
The licensing process for the GE Enrichment Facility is described in the figure.
Environmental Impact Statement
On January 30, 2009, GE submitted an Environmental Report (ER) for the proposed commercial facility. The ER provides the applicant's assessment of the environmental impacts of the proposed commercial facility. The NRC prepared its own assessment in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS was developed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and NRC regulations at 10 CFR Part 51. Learn more about NRC's environmental reviews for nuclear materials sites, see Materials Environmental Reviews Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
On April 9, 2009, NRC published a Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS (74 FR 16237). This notice included a public comment period on the scope of the EIS. On May 19, 2009, NRC staff held public scoping meetings for the EIS in Wilmington, North Carolina. On July 24, 2009, the scoping comment period was extended to August 31, 2009, in a Federal Register Notice (74 FR 36781) to allow the public to consider the license application, which GEH submitted on June 26, 2009. After consideration of the public comments, on November 25, 2009, NRC staff issued its scoping report. The Project Manager for the EIS is Jennifer Davis.
On June 17, 2010, NRC staff issued its draft EIS for the project. Instructions for submitting comments are provided in the Federal Register Notice, dated June 25, 2010. A public meeting to obtain comments was held on July 22, 2010, in Wilmington, NC. The public comment period ended on August 9, 2010. On February 28, 2012, the NRC Staff issued the Final EIS (NUREG-1938), Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Correspondence and Other Information
|09/25/2012||Issuance of License|
|08/20/2012||Revision 7 to License Application|
Issuance of Final Environmental Impact Statement
|02/28/2012||Issuance of Safety Evaluation Report|
|10/14/2011||Revision 6 to License Application|
|08/12-31/2011||Revision 5 to License Application|
|08/01/2011||Revision 5 to License Application|
|03/29/2011||Revision 4 to License Application|
|12/16/2010||Revision 3 to License Application|
|06/25/2010||Revision 2 to License Application|
|06/25/2010||Federal Register Notice: Availability of Draft EIS|
|01/13/2010||Federal Register Notice: Opportunity for a Hearing|
|12/28/2009||GE Responses to License Application Requests for Information (Public)|
|11/25/2009||EIS Scoping Report|
|11/19/2009||License Application Requests for Additional Information (Public)|
|11/13/2009||GE Environmental Report Supplement 2|
|11/05/2009||GE Responses to Environmental Report RAIs|
|10/07/2009||Environmental Report Requests for Additional Information (Public)|
|07/24/2009||Federal Register Notice: Extension of Scoping Comment Period|
|07/13/2009||GE Environmental Report Supplement 1|
|License Application for the GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC Commercial Facility|
|04/09/2009||Federal Register Notice: Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS|
|04/02/2009||Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS|
|01/13/2009||Approval of Exemption Request for Early Submittal of Environmental Report|
|12/31/2008||GE Environmental Report|
|12/08/2008||GE Exemption Request for Early Submittal of Environmental Report|
|12/08/2008||GE Exemption Request for Preconstruction Activities|
|02/09/2007||Status of the SILEX Project Proposed by General Electric Nuclear|
For upcoming meetings, see our Public Meeting Schedule. Information for the meetings on this page are available at this Web site or in ADAMS if an accession number is given.
|Meetings and Other Interactions Between GE and NRC|
Public Meeting on SER and FEIS
Public Meeting on Draft EIS
Public Meeting on Licensing Process
Environmental Report Meeting
GE Local and State Official Meetings
Meeting with GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas to Discuss Environmental Issues Applicable to the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the GE-Hitachi Uranium Enrichment Facility
General Electric-Hitachi Pre-Application
Opportunity for Hearing
On January 13, 2010, NRC published a Federal Register Notice offering the public an opportunity to petition for a hearing. Petitions are due on March 2, 2010. No petitions for a contested hearing were submitted.
The licensing of the GE-Hithachi Uranium Enrichment Facility will be conducted under a 30-month licensing review schedule, which is also available as a dataset with an accompanying data dictionary (both in Microsoft Excel format).