The Urenco Group is a nuclear fuel company operating several uranium enrichment plants in Germany, the Netherlands, United States, and United Kingdom. It supplies nuclear power stations in about 15 countries, and states that it had a 29% share of the global market for enrichment services in 2011. Urenco uses centrifuge enrichment technology.
In July 2012, it was reported that a sale of the government interests of Urenco was being sought. Urenco, headquartered in Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire and registered in the UK, is one third owned by the UK government, one third by the Dutch government, the rest by two major German utilities, E.ON and RWE (one sixth each). RWE has announced it wants to sell its share.
Urenco Deutschland GmbH, Urenco UK Ltd, and Urenco Nederland BV are 100% subsidiaries of Urenco Enrichment Company Ltd. They operate enrichment plants at Gronau, Westphalia, Germany, at Capenhurst, England, United Kingdom and at Almelo, Netherlands.
In the United States, where Urenco is represented by its marketing subsidiary Urenco, Inc., the Urenco USA facility became operational in spring 2010. Called the National Enrichment Facility, it is located 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Eunice, New Mexico, and is operated by Urenco's subsidiary Louisiana Energy Services (LES). Urenco also owns a 50% interest in Enrichment Technology Company (ETC), a company jointly owned with Areva. ETC provides enrichment-plant design services and gas-centrifuge technology for enrichment plants through its subsidiaries in the UK (Capenhurst), Germany (Gronau and Jülich), the Netherlands (Almelo), France (Tricastin) and the U.S. (Eunice, New Mexico).
Urenco is owned in three equal parts by Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland NV (owned by the Government of the Netherlands), Uranit GmbH (owned equally by German energy companies E.ON and RWE) and Enrichment Holdings Ltd (owned by the Government of the United Kingdom and managed by the Shareholder Executive). The company was set up in 1971 pursuant to the Treaty of Almelo, which restricts the sale of ownership stakes. As of 2012, the owners are considering a potential sale.
Urenco Netherlands BV has dismantled enrichment plant SP3, after the decommissioning of SP1 and SP2 in the 1980s and 1990s. Information about decommissioning cost calculations for Urenco facilities is not accessible.
In the 1970s, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan who worked for a subcontractor of URENCO in Almelo, brought the drawings of the centrifuges operated by Urenco to Pakistan by skipping the URENCO administration and the Dutch government. Those blueprints were stolen from the URENCO administration. In the early 1974, Dr. Khan joined the uranium enrichment programme, launched by Munir Ahmad Khan under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Prime minister that time. Later, he took over the project, and established a facility that produces the HEU based. Within a short span of time established a highly advanced uranium enrichment facility near Islamabad.
In May 1985, the United Nations Council for Namibia (UNCN) decided to take legal action against Urenco for breaching UNCN Decree No 1, which prohibited any exploitation of Namibia's natural resources under apartheid South Africa, because Urenco had been importing uranium ore from the Rössing mine in Namibia. The case was expected to be ready by the end of 1985 but was delayed because Urenco argued that, despite having enriched uranium of Namibian origin since 1980, it was impossible to tell where specific consignments came from. When the case finally reached court in July 1986, the Dutch government took Urenco's line, claiming not to have known where the uranium had been mined.
According to Greenpeace, Urenco has a standing contract with Russia for the disposal of radioactive waste. In reality, these contracts do not relate to the disposal of waste, but to the sale of depleted uranium tails, which are re-enriched to natural uranium equivalent. As the enricher, Russia would be the owner of any radioactive waste that results from this process. In March 2009, there were protests about the largest-ever load of depleted uranium hexafluoride being transported from Germany to the Siberian town Seversk.