Bethesda-based nuclear energy provider USEC has emerged from bankruptcy proceedings with less debt and a new name, executives announced Tuesday, part of a plan to put the company on a better financial footing as the market for nuclear energy regains strength.
The company, now known as Centrus Energy Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March after determining it would be unable to pay $530 million in debt that would have come due this month and $114 million in preferred stock held by two investors.
Under a restructuring plan approved by investors, the company will issue common stock and new debt worth $240 million to its existing investors and creditors. The new debt will come due in 2019.
Spokesman Paul Jacobson said the new timeline will give the nuclear energy market more time to rebound following the tsunami in Japan that three years ago knocked out nuclear reactors there and sparked international safety concerns.
Japan took its 48 reactors offline after the natural disaster and implemented stricter safety protocols. As of mid-August, none of that country’s plants had been reactivated, and surveys show the public there views nuclear power negatively.
“The main thing to remember about this industry, in general, is it’s an industry with long lead times, long visions. While the market has undergone both man-made and natural upheaval in recent years . . . over the long term, you still have roughly 400 reactors around the world that will need to be refueled,” Jacobson said.
Centrus Energy sells enriched uranium to utility companies that operate nuclear power plants. Though the majority of its customers are in North America, Jacobson said the firm sees opportunities abroad as developing countries consume more electricity and look for clean and inexpensive energy sources.
“We constantly are pursuing global business, and now that we’re on firmer financial grounds and don’t have this debt hanging over us, we very much will pursue that,” Jacobson said.
Still on hold is the company’s American Centrifuge project, which calls for a large uranium enrichment facility to be built in Piketon, Ohio. The company said its technology has been tested and validated by the Department of Energy, but it has been unable to secure necessary financing because of the uncertain nuclear energy market.
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