By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
U.S. Department of Energy Chairman Steven Chu is putting the ball for the proposed uranium enrichment program with USEC directly in Congress’ court.
In a letter to John K. Welch, president and CEO of USEC Inc., Chu says the Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) venture is in the hands of the U.S. Congress.
Last week, the government and USEC announced an agreement that would involve testing and building clusters of machines used to enrich uranium. Welch expressed his interest in developing the project, while at the same time reiterating the importance of the DOE’s authorization of a $2 billion loan guarantee for the American Centrifuge Project.
In the letter, Chu told Welch, “Thank you for your letter regarding the American Centrifuge Plant. I share your sentiments regarding the progress we have been making on a Research, Development, and Demonstration (RD&R) project to reduce the technical and financial risks for ACP. I am committed to the RD&D program we have been discussing, and we are working hard to make that program a reality. As you mentioned in your letter, the RD&D program we have discussed anticipates DOE funding of up to $300 million, accompanied by a significant cost share by USEC and its partners in order to manufacture and test a significant number of commercial plant design machines and key systems on the path toward one train of centrifuges.”
Chu says it is urgent Congress act to get the RD&D program in place as soon as possible. In his correspondence, Chu says he sent a letter to the appropriations committees requesting the budget authority for DOE to provide $150 million in initial funding.
“Congressional approval of that request on an expeditious basis is critical to continuing work at ACP, and is needed to provide the level of funding required to begin the full program of work we have been discussing,” Chu said. He goes on to say Congressional action on the administration’s proposed $150 million in initial budget authority is “uncertain.”