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Testing has been completed of the second full-scale laser system module developed by Australia's Silex Systems Ltd for deployment in Global Laser Enrichment's (GLE's) commercial pilot demonstration facility in the USA. The module is expected to be installed and operational by the end of this year.

(Image: Pixabay)

Silex noted the second module was constructed and tested at its laser technology development centre in Lucas Heights, near Sydney, in less than 12 months, in line with the accelerated schedule for the commercial-scale pilot demonstration project.

The laser system module is currently being prepared for shipment to GLE's facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, and is expected to be installed and operational by the end of 2023, subject to transport scheduling, Silex said.

"This is another key milestone for the SILEX uranium enrichment technology which demonstrates our ability to efficiently build full-scale SILEX laser system modules, and to incorporate improvements which enable increased reliability under commercial-scale conditions for extended periods," Silex Managing Director and CEO Michael Goldsworthy said. "We are also encouraged with the accelerated efforts in GLE's Test Loop facility through which the balance of pilot systems, including the separator and gas handling equipment, are progressing towards completion of construction. We are hopeful that commissioning of the full pilot facility could commence in Q1 CY2024."

The first full-scale laser system module developed by Silex completed eight months of testing in August 2022, after which it was packaged for shipment to GLE's Test Loop Facility at Wilmington, where it was expected to be installed before the end of last year.

GLE is the exclusive worldwide licensee of the SILEX laser technology for uranium enrichment.

In February, GLE joint venture owners Silex (51%) and Cameco (49%) agreed to a plan and budget for CY2023 that accelerates activities in the commercial-scale pilot demonstration project for the SILEX uranium enrichment technology with the aim of completing a commercial-scale pilot demonstration (TRL-6) of the SILEX technology as early as mid-2024. At the time Silex said: "If the technology demonstration project can be successfully completed on an accelerated timeline, this preserves the option to commence commercial operations at the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility (PLEF) up to three years earlier than originally planned, subject to the availability of government and industry support, as well as geopolitical and market factors."

In a statement today, Silex said: "Assuming successful achievement of TRL-6 and a positive feasibility study, GLE could potentially deploy the PLEF for the production of natural grade uranium (in the form of UF6) via enrichment of Department of Energy-owned tails inventories under a landmark agreement signed between GLE and the DOE in 2016."

The PLEF project has the potential to produce up to 5 million pounds of uranium oxide annually for approximately 30 years. As well as production of natural grade UF6 via tails processing, GLE also envisages further development of PLEF to use the technology to produce low-enriched uranium and so-called LEU+ from natural UF6 to supply fuel for existing reactors; and for the production of high-assay low-enriched uranium - or HALEU - for next-generation advanced small modular reactors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Wednesday, 16 August 2023
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