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May 29, 2014

USEC’S AMERICAN CENTRIFUGE PASSES STATION BLACKOUT TEST

By ExchangeMonitor
Kenneth Fletcher RW Monitor 1/10/2014 USEC’s American Centrifuge Project late last month successfully passed a “station blackout” test, a significant step given that a cutoff to power supply in 2011 raised questions about the technology. The…
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May 29, 2014

USEC’S AMERICAN CENTRIFUGE PASSES STATION BLACKOUT TEST

By ExchangeMonitor

Kenneth Fletcher
RW Monitor
1/10/2014

USEC’s American Centrifuge Project late last month successfully passed a “station blackout” test, a significant step given that a cutoff to power supply in 2011 raised questions about the technology. The Dec. 18 test occurred under a Department of Energy research, development and deployment program supporting the technology, and involved the external power supply being cut off without warning. “I am pleased to report that all of our personnel on duty and all of the plant equipment, including the 120 centrifuges that were running with full inventory of uranium hexafluoride gas, responded safely and within expected parameters, with no unusual events or issues related to the total loss of power,” Paul Sullivan, USEC vice president for American Centrifuge, said in a statement. “This was a litmus test for us, and our people and technology came through it with flying colors.”

The test addressed issues that came to light in a June 2011 incident at ACP’s Lead Cascade test program when a circuit breaker failed, causing the loss of power to operating centrifuge machines. There was no release of radiation, and the circuit breaker was replaced, but a subsequent inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found several problems related to the power failure. It also raised concerns in Congress—in 2012 Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked at a hearing, “Didn’t the centrifuges blow up?,” referring to the 2011 incident, and added, “If it can’t operate, why fund it? If it doesn’t operate well, why fund it, if there are other methods of handling the problem?” (RW Monitor, Vol. 5 No. 13).

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