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U.S. Dept. of Energy offers $2 billion for nuclear facility in Idaho

The U.S. Department of Energy last week offered a $2 billion loan guarantee to French nuclear power firm Areva for the construction of a uranium enrichment facility in Idaho.

The U.S. Department of Energy last week offered a $2 billion loan guarantee to French nuclear power firm Areva for the construction of a uranium enrichment facility in Idaho.

Areva's $3.3 billion Eagle Rock enrichment facility, located near Idaho Falls, Idaho, will use advanced centrifuge technology instead of a more energy-intensive gaseous diffusion process. It's the second plant to use the tech in the U.S., and will consume 95 percent less electricity than with the technology it replaces.

"Increasing uranium enrichment in the United States is critical to the nation's energy and national security," U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a statement.  "Existing reactors will need additional sources of enriched uranium soon. New nuclear plants that could start to come on line as early as 2016 will also need a steady, reliable source of uranium enrichment services. AREVA's project will help to meet that demand."

Currently, the U.S. obtains half of its enriched uranium from Russia under the "Megatons-to-Megawatts" program, which converts supplies intended for use as military nuclear weapons into civilian nuclear fuel. But the program expires in 2013, leaving the U.S. with considerable ground to cover to provide sufficient supplies for its nuclear power demands.

The Department of Energy said it would provide $54.5 billion in loan guarantees to build nuclear power in America. This is the second nuclear loan guarantee allocated by the DOE; in February, it announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to Southern Company for two nuclear plants in Burke County, Ga.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com