Domenici: Progress on New U.S. Uranium Enrichment Plan Solidifies N.M. role in Nuke Energy Renaissance
-- Senator Attends Dedication Ceremony for $2.0 Billion Lea County Plant --
U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today asserted that progress on construction of the National Enrichment Facility (NEF) in Lea County continues to move New Mexico to the center of the renaissance of American nuclear power, a goal considered crucial to America's quest for greater energy independence.
Domenici addressed the rebirth of the U.S. nuclear energy industry during the dedication of the NEF's main separations building, which has been designated as the "Pete V. Domenici Separation Building."
In 2006, Domenici helped break ground on the $2 billion uranium enrichment facility, the first such project undertaken in the United States in more than half a century. When NEF is operational, this single plant in New Mexico will have the capacity to refine enough fuel to supply 25 percent of the fuel needs of our entire civilian nuclear power reactor fleet.
"The NEF represents one of the first major nuclear energy construction projects that will be completed in the renaissance of nuclear energy in America," said Domenici, noting that the facility is the largest private-sector construction project in New Mexico.
"New Mexico can be proud that this new beginning is happening here and that New Mexico will be so instrumental in providing even cleaner nuclear energy to our country," Domenici said. "The progress on the NEF solidifies New Mexico's position at the center of our country's nuclear energy future. We have some of the richest uranium deposits in the country near Gallup and Grants, the only operating deep geologic waste repository in the world near Carlsbad, two world class research laboratories in Albuquerque and Los Alamos, and now this first of a kind state of the art uranium enrichment facility in Eunice."
NEF is the first U.S. enrichment plant brought into operation since the 1950s, and the first commercial gas centrifuge facility to operate in the United States. Currently, 80 percent of enrichment services are imported, with Russia providing 42 percent of the enrichment supply to U.S. nuclear power facilities. Enrichment at NEF is expected to begin in 2009, with full operations expected to take place in 2013 with 1,000 workers.
Today Louisiana Energy Services (LES) has 236 full time employees and over 800 contractors and construction workers with an annual payroll of $23 million. More than 100 LES employees are New Mexico hires and LES spent $100 million in New Mexico companies in 2008.
"NEF represents much more than jobs and taxes, it represents the return of the future that our country abandoned 30 years ago when we stopped building new nuclear power facilities. The rest of the world did not abandon nuclear energy though, and now our allies are helping to bring nuclear power back to this country where it started," Domenici said.
The renaissance of the American nuclear energy sector was greatly accelerated with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that was enacted when Domenici was chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Since July 2007, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received a total of 17 separate applications for 26 new reactor units, with several more expected. The Department of Energy has received loan guarantee applications worth $122 billion for nuclear power.
This year, Domenici authored a provision that closes a loophole created by a September 2007 U.S. Court of International Trade ruling that would have given Russia unfettered access to the U.S. uranium enrichment market by requiring Russia to downblend 500 metric tons of its highly enriched uranium (HEU) by 2013, as well as an additional 300 tons thereafter. The measure, which includes incentive for Russia to continue nonproliferation work with the United States, was included in the FY2009 Defense Appropriations Bill and signed by President Bush in September.
This week, Domenici also signaled his approval of the recent announcement that AREVA and Northrop Grumman plans to build a new $360 million manufacturing and engineering facility in Newport News, Va., to construct heavy components for AREVA's U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR). AREVA has submitted applications to build at least four such units in the United States.