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Loan Request by Uranium-Enrichment Firm Upends Politics as Usual via The New York Times

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Published: November 24, 2011

WASHINGTON — The only American-owned company capable of enriching uranium is asking for government help to modernize its plant and remain in business.

USEC, formerly the United States Enrichment Corporation, wants to build a new plant in Ohio.

That leaves Congress with a stark choice. It can either risk millions or billions of dollars to keep the company viable, or it will have to rely on domestic inventories and foreign-owned suppliers for a service that is crucial both to maintaining the country’s nuclear arsenal and for running its 104 nuclear power reactors.

The company, USEC, which formerly stood for United States Enrichment Corporation and was spun off by the government as a private company in 1998, runs a plant in Paducah, Ky., that uses 1940s technology to sort the two dominant types of uranium so the enriched product can be used as reactor fuel.

On the site of an old, shuttered factory in Piketon, Ohio, the company is trying to build a new one that would use giant centrifuges. Modern nuclear programs, from France to Russia to Iran, now use centrifuges because they consume about 95 percent less electricity per unit of sorting work.

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