There may be some changes coming up the highway at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) in Castle Hayne.
The Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) business there, launched in 2006 to develop uranium enrichment services capability, might be changing ownership, according to company officials.
In a statement to the media
on Feb. 3, Silex stated that “with a number of strategic investors currently in advanced stages of due diligence activities, Silex and GEH continue to work on the formal agreement documentation that would potentially result in the sale of GEH’s 76% stake in GLE to Silex and other new investors. Should the GLE restructure continue constructively and more time is needed, Silex will seek a further extension of the term sheet arrangements with GEH through the second quarter of 2017.”
Silex and GEH recently extended the term sheet for the GLE restructure to March 31 to allow the parties additional time to work towards a mutually acceptable restructure of GLE.
None of the parties involved, including GE Hitachi, would comment on the current negotiations.
The GLE business has exclusive rights to commercially develop the Silex laser isotope separation process technology under an agreement reached with Silex Systems Limited of Australia in early 2006.
GLE is a consortium of GE (51 percent), Hitachi (25 percent) and Cameco (24 percent), which has worldwide exclusive rights for the commercial exploitation of the technology.
In July 2014 GLE announced it was restructuring the project to “align with adverse market conditions.”
Silex CEO and Managing Director Michael Goldsworthy said at the time “the global nuclear industry is still suffering the impacts of the Fukushima event and the shutdown of the entire Japanese nuclear power plant fleet in 2011. Demand for uranium has been slower to recover than expected and enrichment services are in significant oversupply,” in a news release.
GLE consolidated its efforts on the technology development activities to Wilmington. Meanwhile, most contractor-based work on the project was suspended, with the project facility near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, placed in a safe-storage mode, and GLE-funded activities at the laser development facility in Sydney was stopped.
In 2016 GEH announced its desire to reduce its equity interest in GLE.
Last week, Japanese media reported that “Electronics giant Hitachi Ltd. is set to lose tens of billions of yen this fiscal year due to the withdrawal from a project to develop a new method of uranium enrichment by a joint venture in the United States.”
The Asahi Shimbun
media outlet continued that “the deficit is largely attributed to the joint venture GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Inc. withdrawing from the uranium enrichment project. Due to this decision, Hitachi no longer expects any profits from the North Carolina-based company.”
Silex is now considering its options.
Despite the possible change in project ownership, development work on the laser enrichment technology will likely continue at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy in Castle Hayne since the facility is already full licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.