United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

GE Laser Enrichment Facility Licensing

General Electric (GE) currently plans to use the Australian laser enrichment technology known as Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation (SILEX) 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 is being built at GE's nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, will verify performance and reliability data for full scale (commercial-like) facilities. This engineering demonstration program is currently under construction. 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.

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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 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.

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Licensing

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 is currently constructing the test loop and plans to begin operations by late-2010. GE has been conducting bench-scale testing since July 2009.

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 GEH Enrichment Facility is described in the figure.

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Environmental Impact Statement

On January 30, 2009, GEH 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 has begun preparing its own assessment, which will be documented in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS will be 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 July 13, 2009, GE submitted Supplement 1 to its Environmental Report. On November 13, 2009, GE submitted Supplement 2 to its Environmental Report.

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.

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Correspondence and Other Information

Date Description
09/25/2012 Issuance of License
08/20/2012 Revision 7 to License Application
02/28/2012

Issuance of Final Environmental Impact Statement

02/28/2012 Issuance of Safety Evaluation Report
10/14/2011 Revision 6 to License Application
08/12/2011 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
06/26/2009 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
01/30/2009 GE Environmental Report
01/13/2009 Approval of Exemption Request for Early Submittal of 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

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Public Involvement

Meeting Schedule

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.

Meeting Archive

Meetings and Other Interactions Between GE and NRC
Meeting Date Subject
05/10/2012

Public Meeting on SER and FEIS

09/01/2010

Management Meeting

02/17/2010

Management Meeting

07/22/2010

Public Meeting on Draft EIS

02/06/2009

Pre-application Meeting

07/17/2008

Public Meeting on Licensing Process

06/16/2008

Environmental Report Meeting

05/28-29/2008

GE Local and State Official Meetings

11/26/2007

Meeting with GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas to Discuss Environmental Issues Applicable to the Preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the GEH-Silex Uranium Enrichment Facility

  • Meeting Summary (Not publicly available)
08/09/2007

General Electric-Hitachi Silex Pre-Application

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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.

Project Schedule

The licensing of the GE 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).

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, August 12, 2013