Gas Centrifuge


Modern gas centrifuge machines all operate in the same basic way:

  • Uranium hexafluoride that has been heated to a gaseous state is fed into a rotor inside the centrifuge machine. The rotor spins at a high speed inside a steel casing. The casing maintains the rotor in a vacuum and provides safety containment in case of a failure inside the machine.
  • The centrifugal force created by the spinning rotor concentrates the heavier U-238 isotopes at the outer wall of the rotor and the lighter U-235 isotopes toward the rotor center.
  • Gas circulation inside the rotor carries the U-235, the product or enriched stream, towards the top of the rotor and the U-238, the tails or depleted stream, towards the bottom of the rotor.
  • Methods of collecting both streams are positioned accordingly within the machine and the product and depleted streams are then fed on to the next machines in the cascade.
  • Since the desired enrichment level cannot be achieved in one centrifuge, several machines must be connected in series and parallel in what is called a “cascade”. A centrifuge enrichment plant is made up of multiple cascades.

The gas centrifuge process has three characteristics that make it economically attractive for uranium enrichment:

  • Proven technology: Centrifuge technology is a proven enrichment process. Currently various forms of this technology are used in several countries.
  • Low operating costs: Its energy requirements are 95% less than the requirements of a comparably sized gaseous diffusion plant per unit of enrichment.
  • Modular architecture: The modularity of the centrifuge technology allows for flexible deployment, enabling capacity to be added in increments as demand increases.