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Feds approve key expansion of NM nuclear plant

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By Susan M. Bryan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal commission announced approval Wednesday for a uranium enrichment plant in southeastern New Mexico to begin operating more of its massive processing system, which would double the facility's capacity to process nuclear fuel.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized Urenco USA and subsidiary Louisiana Energy Services to bring online two additional sequential enrichment systems, known as cascades. Although Urenco is tightlipped about its technology and its customers, the enriched uranium it produces can be used to supply fuel for nuclear power plants domestically and overseas.

It is a key expansion for the facility that opened last summer, when the nuclear commission's authorization made it the first major nuclear facility licensed in the U.S. in three decades.

Urenco spokesman Don Johnson said the company is thrilled. "Cascades 1 and 2 have been spinning and producing all along and our focus remains, as it has always been, on bringing new cascades online to join them."

Employees began loading uranium stock into the newly authorized cascades Wednesday, and officials expected both to be running within a few days.


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