(Bloomberg) — In a remote, dusty corner of New Mexico, so near to the Texas border that if you wander too close your smartphone changes time zones, sits a pristine factory that is the best chance for the US to wean itself off an addiction that few knew it had: uranium enriched in Russia.
Outside the $5 billion Urenco plant in Eunice, cacti and lizards bask in the fierce sunlight, watched by heavily armed guards. Inside, the facility is spotless, with bright, polished machinery that looks brand new even though some of the equipment has been in service for years.
Hundreds of centrifuges, each at least 20 feet tall, spin at supersonic speeds and generate an ear-piercing whine that reverberates across a cavernous hall, where they separate the uranium isotopes needed to make fuel for nuclear power plants. For security reasons, parts of the piping that connect the Eunice machines are shielded from curious visitors.
The plant supplies about one-third of US demand for enriched uranium and is in the process of boosting output by 15%. It’s the centerpiece of a transatlantic project to rejuvenate production of the fuel to feed the West’s fleet of nuclear reactors, a linchpin of energy security and efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
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