Several companies involved in the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle have recently resumed production after announcing temporary shutdowns or staffing reductions during the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cameco: Cameco is resuming production at its Port Hope Conversion Facility’s UF6 plant and its Blind River Refinery in Ontario after a temporary safe shutdown was initiated in mid-April. On May 11, Cameco announced that both operations were to restart the week of May 18 and achieve regular production levels the week of May 25.
Cameco announced on April 8 that these facilities would be placed in a temporary safe shutdown state for approximately four weeks. According to the May 11 release, “The workforce situation has now stabilized, providing Cameco with increased certainty around the availability of necessary personnel to operate the UF6 plant.”
Cameco President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Gitzel expounded. “The provinces and communities where we operate are certainly not out of the woods when it comes to this global pandemic, and we must remain vigilant in how we manage our activities during these challenging times,” he said. “However, we are confident that we can maintain the required roster of qualified operators to run the UF6 plant going forward, enabling us to carefully bring the plant and the UO3 refinery back into production.”
During the temporary shutdown of these two sites, the remainder of Cameco’s Ontario operations continued, including UO2 production at the Port Hope Conversion Facility and fuel bundle production at Cameco Fuel Manufacturing.
On April 13, Cameco withdrew its 2020 outlook for its fuel services division, including production. According to a press release from that day, Cameco does not expect to provide new outlook information “until we have a sufficient basis to do so.”
Global Laser Enrichment: Silex Systems announced on April 28 that technology licensee Global Laser Enrichment had restarted its operations in Wilmington, N.C., on April 27. Operations had been suspended in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all GLE staff were excluded from the site.
“It is possible that operations could again be suspended if there are any additional risks to workers’ health and safety; however, Silex will not report any further temporary suspension unless it lasts for a significant time,” Silex stated in a press release.