Work to expand Dutch enrichment plant begins

26 March 2024

Uranium enrichment services provider Urenco has broken ground on an expansion of its plant in Almelo in the Netherlands. The move came as the company signed a new long-term supply contract with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.

The ceremony to launch the expansion work at Almelo (Image: Urenco)

Urenco announced plans in December last year to increase capacity at its Almelo plant by 15% in response to new commitments from customers. The project will see multiple new centrifuge cascades added to an existing plant at the site, adding about 750 tonnes of SWU per year. The first new cascades are scheduled to come online around 2027.

A ceremony was held on 25 March to mark the start of work on the capacity expansion at Almelo.

This is the third major investment to be approved under Urenco's capacity programme to strengthen the nuclear fuel supply chain worldwide. Earlier in 2023, Urenco approved its first expansion project at its plant in Eunice, New Mexico - the only operating commercial uranium enrichment facility in North America - providing an additional capacity of 700 tonnes of SWU per year. The first new cascades are due online in 2025. The plant currently has a production capacity of 4600 tSWU per year.

At its site in Gronau, Germany, the company is re-fitting an existing space with more modern centrifuge technology which will enhance the capacity of the plant.

"Urenco takes the needs of the market incredibly seriously," said Urenco Almelo Managing Director Ad Louter. "This project will help deliver 1.6 million SWU in total alongside other projects happening at our sites in Germany and the USA. Energy security and decarbonisation have never been so important as they are today, and we are in a time of great change for nuclear without which it will be impossible to meet ambitious climate targets."

Urenco said its capacity programme "is a mid to long-term plan to refurbish and extend" enrichment capacity at all four of its sites. "It comes as more countries and utility companies turn to nuclear for the first time, or seek to extend and/or diversify fuel supplies for existing nuclear operations," it added.

Korean contract

Urenco announced it has signed a new contract for the long-term supply of enrichment services with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), operator of South Korea's nuclear power plants, which generate more than 34% of the country's total electricity.

The signing of the contract (Image: Urenco)

A contract signing ceremony took place in Brussels on 22 March, with KHNP's President and CEO Jooho Whang and Urenco's Chief Commercial Officer Laurent Odeh.

Urenco has been supplying enriched uranium to KHNP since 1993. It said the new contract "will further improve long-term fuel supply stability".

"KHNP aims to build a number of new nuclear power plants at home and abroad, and cooperation with reliable partners such as Urenco will be very important as demand for nuclear power increases internationally," Whang said.

"We are delighted to reaffirm our strong working relationship with KHNP and look forward to playing our part in helping to achieve its energy vision for Korea - as well as contributing to its climate change goals," Laurent said. "Urenco is committed to meeting increased demand for enrichment services with flexible, resilient and sustainable operations."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News