As of early this week, the Department of Energy had yet to reply to an angry letter from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) demanding details about the agency’s plan to help Centrus Energy Corp. build a new uranium enrichment cascade in Ohio.
A Senate aide said Monday that DOE had not respond to the Jan. 23 letter, despite Barrasso’s request for written answers to nine questions by Feb. 8.
A DOE spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment on the matter.
There was no immediate update on the situation as of Thursday morning.
Earlier in January, DOE’s Nuclear Energy Oak Ridge Site Office said it would issue Centrus subsidiary American Centrifuge Operating LLC a contract worth up to $115 million over three years to build a brand new series of its AC-100M centrifuges at the Portsmouth Site in Piketon, Ohio. The 16 machines would by October 2020 produce an unspecified quantity of 19.75-percent enriched uranium fuel product known as high-assay low-enriched uranium.
Barrasso, whose home state has been a major supplier of U.S. uranium, complained that Congress did not authorize or fund the centrifuge demo in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The powerful Republican and chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wanted to know, among other things, how much uranium Centrus would need for the demonstration and whether any commercial spinoff of the demonstration centrifuge would be required to refine only U.S. origin uranium.
Centrus, the one-time U.S. Enrichment Corp. run by former Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman, would build the new cascade at the DOE property that once housed the much larger American Centrifuge industrial-scale enrichment demonstration. The Energy Department defunded that demo in 2015, and the company has since demolished it.
The new enrichment cascade to be built for the Nuclear Energy office could refine uranium usable for defense purposes, unlike the now-demolished American Centrifuge Project.