Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Infrastructure of the Renaissance

AC_Logo_v2_176w_188t If nuclear energy is going to push forward to a true international renaissance, it’s not enough to apply for licenses and and clear some land for new plants. An entire infrastructure has to be exist to support them – now, of course, there is such an infrastructure, since plants have been puttering along for a long while and need replacement parts, a supply of uranium and so on. But a marked increase in plant construction and operation promises a shockwave of new activity in associated industries and suppliers.

Take a look at this article from Smart Money, which offers advice(which we do not recommend you follow without a lot of additional research – you really could find that your next home is your car) on where your investment dollars might flow in the nuclear sphere. This caught our eye:

Nuclear plants also need fuel, of course, and tight supplies of enriched uranium should benefit USEC, one of only four commercial uranium processors in the world.

So true, and what about USEC? Well, they’ve put together a nice set of pages about what they’re calling The American Centrifuge, a next generation technology – they’ve got a logo for it and everything. Interestingly, one of USEC’s selling points revolves around rebuilding the nuclear industrial base:

America stands to gain significant economic benefits by investing in a reinvigorated nuclear industrial manufacturing base. More than one million jobs could be created in the United States if American companies capture a significant share of the growing global nuclear energy market, according to the American Council on Global Nuclear Competitiveness. USEC and its American Centrifuge manufacturers have taken the first step in this national nuclear industrial resurgence.

We should note that, with infrastructure much in the news as a means of spurring the economy through massive investment, virtually any company with a viable project is going to put their best foot forward. USEC may be overselling a touch, but they’re not wrong. The U.S., at least lately, has been aggressively competing with Russia and France in the international nuclear marketplace and the U.S. itself badly needs these kinds of projects. The coming stress on investment may well benefit USEC but also any nuclear-tilted company with viable manufacturing capabilities.

Even in its niche, however, USEC isn’t without competition, as this story from last week demonstrates:

A unit of France's Areva Group on Tuesday applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in Idaho, the company said.

Areva Enrichment Services, based in Bethesda, Maryland, last May announced plans to build the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility 18 miles from Idaho Falls. The plant, which will be near a federally run lab where nuclear energy work has been done for more than 50 years, is to open in 2014.

And AREVA calls theirs a  “newer-technology uranium enrichment plant.” We wonder if they have a logo for it like USEC.

The American Centrifuge logo. Nuclear companies certainly like swirly things.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

USEC is a HORRIBLE investment IMO. The Urenco plant already well into construction is a more advanced process then USECs Paducah plant. And I don't see any way they will raise funds for their own new plant when there is already enough enrichment capacity in the world under construction. USEC is a fish in a rapidly shrinking pond, they will likely no longer exist 10 years from now. It will be impossible to run their gaseous diffusion plant with electricity prices rising and their plant using 10X as much energy as the new plants.