Fluoride Action Network

Updates to Uranium Processing and Fluorine Extraction Process Plans

Source: MarketWatch | Press Release
Posted on October 1st, 2008
Industry type: Nuclear Industry

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho, Oct 01, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ — International Isotopes Inc. is providing this announcement to update its shareholders on the progress the Company has made in advancing its plans for the construction of a depleted uranium de-conversion and fluorine extraction facility using its patented Fluorine Extraction Process (FEP).

The feedstock for the planned facility is depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6). Depleted UF6 is a by-product of the uranium enrichment process. Enrichment is required to convert natural uranium to a form that is useable as reactor fuel. Approximately 90% of the UF6 that goes into the enrichment process emerges as depleted UF6. There are currently four enrichment facilities in the U.S. that are being built or are planned for construction. The initial stated capacity of those facilities will produce in excess of 60 million pounds of depleted UF6 each year. This material must be “de-converted” to a solid form of uranium for easier handling. There are currently no operating de-conversion facilities in this hemisphere. The INIS planned de-conversion facility, coupled with the FEP process, will be able to address a portion of the U.S. de-conversion requirements and do so in an environmentally-friendly fashion.

The Company announced on June 4, 2008, it had acquired the assets of a shut-down, depleted UF6 de-conversion facility and its intent to build a new U.S.-based de-conversion facility utilizing these assets. Simultaneously, the Company announced plans to include its patented FEP technology within the de-conversion facility to produce high-value, specialty fluoride gas products, which are in commercial demand for use in microelectronics manufacturing and in other applications. The Company expects to realize revenue by charging a fee for de-conversion services and from sales of hydrofluoric acid and high purity silicon tetrafluoride. The Company retained an outside consulting firm to evaluate the SiF4 market and the study indicates that current retail pricing for ultra pure SiF4 is between $100 and $325 per pound; however, the Company cautions these prices are subject to change depending on market conditions.

The de-conversion facility project consists of two major elements: 1) a stand-alone FEP, large-scale demonstration plant and 2) the planned depleted uranium de-conversion plant with FEP. The purpose of constructing the FEP large-scale demonstration facility is to test the design of the larger scale FEP equipment planned for the uranium de-conversion facility. The large-scale design will draw upon the information gained in the operation of the existing GeF4 FEP facility in Idaho and upon a large scale (100,000 pound SiF4) FEP operation similar to that constructed and operated by the original developers of the FEP technology in 2000. The demonstration facility will test design parameters and hardware components to ensure that the large facility will be safe, reliable, and commercially viable. The facility will be designed for production rates of approximately 100,000 pounds per year of high purity silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4). The Company believes that successful operation at that capacity will facilitate scale up of the design at the uranium de-conversion facility for annual production of approximately one million pounds of SiF4.

The large scale FEP demonstration facility will be constructed at the existing Idaho FEP plant and will utilize many of the same system components (such as electrical, ventilation, and uranium handling) that are used in the present GeF4 plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license required for this operation can be obtained with an amendment to the existing NRC license for FEP operations. Work on this license amendment is already underway and is expected to be in place by mid 2009.

The Company also announced it had hired a subcontractor team to work on design and licensing of the depleted uranium de-conversion and FEP facility. This subcontractor team is comprised of engineers, project managers, and licensing consultants who have extensive experience in current and historical design of uranium conversion, de-conversion, and enrichment technology facilities and with NRC licensing of these types of facilities as well. The facility is being designed with a great deal of built in flexibility and with an expected initial capacity to process on the order of 14 million pounds of depleted UF6 per year . It is expected to produce over a million pounds of high purity fluoride gas as well as 3 to 5 million pounds of high purity anhydrous hydrofluoric acid (HF). Both of those products are in high commercial demand and the Company anticipates successful delivery of these products into the marketplace.

Steve T. Laflin the Company President and CEO states that “The Company believes the overall engineering design and licensing approach to this project is sound and based, to a great extent, upon previously demonstrated, successfully designed, licensed, and operated facilities. That past operating experience, coupled with our existing FEP operations and plans for the larger scale FEP demonstration facility, gives us a high degree of confidence in the overall timeliness and success of this project.”

The Company also reports that the GeF4 FEP plant in Idaho has successfully produced its initial target quantities of GeF4 for customer evaluation and is working with customers to complete acceptance testing. The Company still anticipates the start of commercial sale in the near future but cannot forecast at this time when that evaluation process will be completed. In the mean time, the Company is continuing to invest in additional hardware upgrades to improve capacity and operating efficiency of the GeF4 facility.

Site location studies for the new UF6 processing facility are underway and the Company has announced it has narrowed its list of candidate locations to Andrews County Texas, Lea County New Mexico, and two possible locations in Idaho. Laflin indicated “all of these locations have many excellent attributes and each could be a good choice for our new facility. The Company will be conducting a series of local meetings with individuals and groups and will also hold open house meetings in each location as part of the site selection process. Dates for the meetings will be announced in the coming weeks.”

The Company cautions that it will need to raise significant capital to complete this project. Given current market conditions there can be no guarantee the capital will be available, or available under acceptable terms. The Company is currently evaluating several paths to raise the capital that will be necessary for the project.

About International Isotopes Inc.

International Isotopes Inc. manufactures a full range of nuclear medicine calibration and reference standards, high purity fluoride gases, and a variety of cobalt-60 products such as teletherapy sources. The Company also provides a wide selection of radioisotopes and radiochemicals for medical devices, calibration, clinical research, life sciences, and industrial applications and provides a host of analytical, measurement, recycling, and processing services on a contract basis to clients.

International Isotopes Inc. Safe Harbor Statement

Certain statements in this press release are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including the statements with respect to the Company’s goals with respect to constructing a hybrid depleted uranium de-conversion processing and fluorine extraction facility, amending the NRC license, and commercial sales of GeF4. Information contained in such forward-looking statements is based on current expectations and is subject to change. These statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results, performance or achievements of International Isotopes Inc. to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Other factors, which could materially affect such forward-looking statements, can be found in International Isotopes Inc.’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission at www.sec.gov, including our annual report on Form 10-KSB for the year ending December 31, 2007. Investors, potential investors and other readers are urged to consider these factors carefully in evaluating the forward-looking statements and are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements. Additional factors that could materially affect the results, performance or achievements of the Company include the ability to successfully obtain additional funding necessary to complete its planned de-conversion facility and complete construction and licensing of such facility, which may not occur. Achievement by the Company of the project is substantially dependent on success in securing off-take agreements with commercial enrichment companies for depleted uranium hexafluoride for de-conversion services and supply of the raw material for the production of high quality fluoride gasses. The forward-looking statements made herein are only made as of the date of this press release and International Isotopes, Inc. undertakes no obligation to publicly update such forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.

For more information, visit our web site at www.intisoid.com