A three-day virtual summit hosted by the United States Nuclear Industry Council Advanced Reactor will conclude today.

The summit is focusing on the nuclear fuel supply chain for advanced reactors, which includes a discussion on the need for future production of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU), for use in next generation Advanced Reactors and Small Modular Reactors.

Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a US-based company which is majority owned by ASX-listed Silex (ASX:SLX), has presented at the Summit.

Silex is a laser technology company focusing on the uranium enrichment sector.

It’s also into the semiconductor business through its subsidiary, Translucent. The company has developed a novel set of semiconductor materials known as ‘crystalline Rare Earth Oxides (CREO)’, for applications in wireless and optical communications.

GLE’s presentation

In the presentation, GLE confirms that it has exclusive rights to commercialise the Silex laser uranium enrichment technology, with over $400 million invested in the commercialisation program to date.

Silex’s technology is a unique third generation (laser-based) enrichment technology, with highly-sensitive lasers that could selectively excite UF6 (uranium hexaflouride) molecules, and efficiently seperate Uranium-235.

Uranium enrichment requires increasing the proportion of U-235 relative to U-238, which in turn requires separating the two isotopes and discarding U-238.

According to GLE, Silex’s technology is significantly more efficient than centrifuge technology.

To further develop this research, GLE has proposed building a new facility that will enrich the existing UF6 technologies (65 per cent of the plant), and a separator system (35 per cent of the plant).

Commercialisation of Silex laser technology

In a deal executed in June last year, Silex purchased a 51 per cent stake in GLE from GE Hitachi. The deal only obtained US government approval in January this year.

In the deal, GLE will have exclusive rights to commercially develop the Silex laser isotope separation process technology.

Separation of isotopes by laser excitation is a process originally developed by Silex in the early 1990s, by Australians Dr Michael Goldsworthy and Dr Horst Struve, who worked for Silex. The process is used to produce natural grade uranium using lasers.

The precursor for the deal with GLE was actually hatched as early as 2016, when GLE and the US Department of Energy struck an agreement allowing GLE access to the US Department of Energy’s UF6 inventories. UF6 is used to generate fuel for nuclear reactors and weapons.

In the presentation this week, GLE outlined its efforts to commercialise Silex’s technology, with programs running in North Carolina as well as Lucas Heights, Australia.

Meanwhile, the latest results show that Silex reported a $3.8 million loss for the full year of FY20. But that hasn’t stopped its share price surging by 470 per cent over the past 12 months.


Silex share price today: