Silex invented and developed the ‘SILEX’ laser isotope separation technology in Sydney during the 1990’s. The uranium enrichment application of the SILEX technology was licensed exclusively in 2006 to Global Laser Enrichment LLC (‘GLE’), a joint venture business today owned by Silex (51%) and Cameco (49%). Silex and GLE jointly continue to commercialise the technology for potential deployment in the US with the aim of completing a full-scale pilot demonstration by the mid-2020’s.
The first planned commercial plant could involve a tails (depleted UF6) enrichment facility in Paducah, Kentucky, capable of producing up to 2,000 tonnes of natural UF6 (approximately 5 million pounds U3O8 equivalent) per year for approximately 30 years, which would rank in the top ten of current uranium mines by production volume. The Paducah plant has a target commercial operation date in the late 2020’s. However, GLE’s owners are currently assessing the feasibility of accelerating this timeline in light of emerging geopolitical risks in the nuclear fuel supply chain, precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, these emergent risks may potentially result in multiple target markets for the SILEX technology in the global nuclear fuel industry including for natural and enriched uranium, worth several billions of dollars annually (see Nuclear Fuel Production Opportunities).