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World's first laser-based uranium enrichment likely to be a "go" in Castle Hayne

GE-Hitachi’s subsidiary Global Laser Enrichment is poised to receive a license to build and operate the world’s first laser-based uranium enrichment plant. 

As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports, the Board charged with making an up-or-down recommendation to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has delivered its verdict. 

It’s a “yes” from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.  That means the NRC is likely to green-light GLE’s cutting-edge project – by granting a 40-year license for laser uranium enrichment in a matter of weeks.  GE-Hitachi’s Christopher White says up to now, the company has focused primarily on obtaining the license.  But officials haven’t yet decided how to proceed once it’s granted, and several factors come into play: 

“…including the current market, including the economics around it, fleshing out some real details on what we think the real costs may be to developing this technology at a commercial level.  So there are lots of things we still have to look at.  It would mark a major investment for the company and it’s something that we are looking at very carefully.”

Once the permit is in hand, White says GE could choose to exercise the license – or not.  The company could also hold it for a while to see what the market does.           

“All these things are on the table.” 

Opponents of the project say commercializing this technology could lead to nuclear proliferation and heightened instability around the world.  GE refutes those concerns, citing a proliferation risk assessment they commissioned.  But White says the company is looking forward and is excited about the future. 

“It marks a major milestone and really is a testament to all the hard work of our experts here in Wilmington that have worked on this project for several years.”

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.