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USU > SEC Filings for USU > Form 10-Q on 5-Nov-2013All Recent SEC Filings

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Form 10-Q for USEC INC


5-Nov-2013

Quarterly Report


Item 2. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with, and is qualified in its entirety by reference to, the consolidated condensed financial statements and related notes set forth in Part I, Item 1 of this report as well as the risks and uncertainties presented in Part II, Item 1A of this report and Part I, Item 1A of the annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012.

Overview

USEC, a global energy company, is a leading supplier of low enriched uranium ("LEU") for commercial nuclear power plants. LEU is a critical component in the production of nuclear fuel for reactors to produce electricity. We supply LEU to both domestic and international utilities for use in nuclear reactors worldwide.

LEU consists of two components: separative work units ("SWU") and uranium. SWU is a standard unit of measurement that represents the effort required to transform a given amount of natural uranium into two components: enriched uranium having a higher percentage of U235 and depleted uranium having a lower percentage of U235. The SWU contained in LEU is calculated using an industry standard formula based on the physics of enrichment. The amount of enrichment deemed to be contained in LEU under this formula is commonly referred to as its SWU component and the quantity of natural uranium used in the production of LEU under this formula is referred to as its uranium component.

We have historically produced or acquired LEU from two principal sources. We produced about half of our supply of LEU at the Paducah gaseous diffusion plant ("GDP") in Paducah, Kentucky that we lease from the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE"), and we acquired the other portion under a contract with Russia (the "Russian Contract") under the 20-year Megatons to Megawatts program that ends in 2013. Under the Russian Contract, we purchase the SWU component of LEU derived from dismantled nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union for use as fuel in commercial nuclear power plants. We ceased enrichment at the Paducah GDP at the end of May 2013 after the one-year arrangement under which we were continuing enrichment at the Paducah GDP expired. We are working to transition the site back to DOE. Our purchases under the Megatons to Megawatts program will also end in 2013 and will be replaced by purchases under a new 10-year commercial agreement with Russia (the "Russian Supply Agreement"). Purchase quantities under the Russian Supply Agreement will be about half the level under the Megatons to Megawatts program unless the parties exercise a mutual option to increase such purchases.

Our business is in a state of significant transition as we seek to re-position our enrichment business for long term success. We will be a significantly smaller company with lower revenues as we transition from having two sources of supply that provided approximately 10 to 12 million SWU per year to making sales from our existing inventory, from future purchases of LEU from Russia at lower quantities and from other potential sources of supply. We continue to pursue commercialization of the American Centrifuge technology, which we believe is the best path to remaining a competitive producer of LEU in the long-term. We are confirming the technical readiness of the American Centrifuge technology through a cooperative cost-sharing research, development and demonstration ("RD&D") program with DOE. We are also in parallel working to position USEC financially to move forward as a stronger sponsor of the American Centrifuge project. However, current enrichment market conditions do not support a viable business plan for obtaining the capital needed for the commercialization of the American Centrifuge project. We are currently evaluating the alternatives and actions needed for the deployment of the project, including the need for additional government support for financing and for funding for the project for the period from the completion of the RD&D program until the receipt of financing for commercial deployment. We could make a decision in the near term to demobilize or terminate the project if post RD&D funding is not available or if we determine there is no longer a viable path to commercialization of the American Centrifuge project, as discussed below under "Our View of the Business Today."


Our View of the Business Today

Our business is in a state of significant transition as we move from the gaseous diffusion technology employed for more than 60 years to a modern, cost-effective gas centrifuge technology. Managing this transition has been made more challenging by current enrichment market conditions. In March 2011, a tsunami resulting from a major earthquake caused irreparable damage to four reactors in Japan and subsequently resulted in more than 50 reactors in Japan and Germany being taken off-line in the aftermath of the tsunami. The Japanese reactors will remain off-line for an undetermined period of time until federal and local approval is obtained for re-start. In recent months, five Japanese utilities applied to nuclear regulators for permission to restart 14 of the idled reactors, but restarts are not expected until 2014. In addition, low prices for competing fuels such as natural gas in the United States could slow the need for new base load nuclear power capacity and has resulted in early retirement of five U.S. nuclear plants. Germany has announced a national policy to phase out nuclear power by 2022. Together, these shutdowns have significantly affected the global supply and demand for LEU and if there is a delay or reduction in the number of Japanese reactor restarts, the impact could worsen. An oversupply of nuclear fuel available for sale has increased over time and has resulted in significant downward pressure on market prices for LEU. In particular, based on current market conditions, we see limited uncommitted demand for LEU relative to supply prior to the end of the decade, and therefore fewer opportunities to make additional sales for delivery during that period.

The market conditions have affected our business plans, including our decision in May to cease enrichment at the Paducah GDP and increased challenges to the economics of our plan to deploy the American Centrifuge technology, as described below. The one-year arrangement with Energy Northwest to enrich depleted uranium supplied to Energy Northwest by DOE expired on May 31, 2013. USEC pursued possible opportunities for continuing enrichment at Paducah but DOE concluded that there were not sufficient benefits to the taxpayers to extend enrichment beyond May 31. We ceased enrichment at the end of May 2013 and completed withdrawing material from the cascade in early June. We are working to transition the site back to DOE.

We expect to continue operations at the Paducah site into 2014 in order to manage inventory, continue to meet customer orders and to meet the turnover requirements of our lease with DOE. We submitted regulatory filings to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC") to support the de-lease of a portion of the Paducah GDP and return to DOE certain areas currently leased from DOE. Additional actions will be required in upcoming months as our planning continues and we continue to work to reach agreement on a de-lease plan with DOE. For a limited period of time, we still need to lease certain areas used for ongoing operations such as shipping and handling, inventory management and site services. All 1,034 Paducah employees (except guards) were provided notifications on May 31, 2013 under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act ("WARN Act"), a federal statute that requires an employer to provide advance notice to its employees of potential layoffs in certain circumstances. For the period May 31, 2013 through September 30, 2013, the headcount at Paducah was reduced by 166 through layoffs, retirements and other attrition and we expect approximately 90 additional employees will leave through layoffs and attrition through January 2014. Additional layoffs are expected to occur in stages in 2014 depending on business needs.

We are currently in discussions with DOE regarding the timing of our de-lease and are seeking to minimize our transition costs related to lease turnover, which could be substantial. On August 1, 2013, we provided notice to DOE that we have exercised our rights to terminate the lease with respect to the Paducah GDP upon two years prior notice as permitted under the lease. We can also de-lease portions of the property under lease upon 60 days prior notice with DOE's consent, which cannot be unreasonably withheld. However, the right of partial de-lease does not include the right of USEC to terminate the lease in its entirety or with respect to the Paducah GDP, which termination is permitted only in accordance with the two-year termination provision of the lease. We anticipate being able to complete the return of leased premises and terminate the Paducah GDP lease as early as July 2014, but we and DOE have not reached agreement on a lease termination date prior to August 1, 2015. DOE has indicated that its ability to agree to such an earlier date will depend on the availability of funding among other things. In the event that we and DOE are unable to agree on a schedule for termination prior to two years (August 1, 2015), we plan to retain a small portion of the leased premises until such time, at which time the Paducah GDP lease will terminate and any remaining portion of the leased premises will be returned to DOE. In such an event,


during this period we plan to return portions of the leased premises no longer required to meet our business needs. However, limitations on available funding to DOE in light of federal budget constraints and spending cuts could limit DOE's willingness to accept the return of areas that we wish to de-lease on a timely basis. In addition, while DOE has stated that it continues to be willing to work with us to develop a transition plan and schedule for the safe and secure return of the Paducah GDP, DOE has taken the position that we are foreclosed from invoking our rights to a partial return of facilities under the lease. We strongly disagree with this DOE position. Disputes could also arise regarding the requirements of the lease and responsibility for associated turnover costs. Under our lease, DOE has the obligation for decontamination and decommissioning of the Paducah GDP. For a discussion of potential transition costs, see below under "LEU Segment - Paducah GDP Transition."

We are also seeking to manage the impacts of the Paducah transition on our existing business. Now that we have ceased enrichment at the Paducah GDP, there will be a transition period of at least several years until the American Centrifuge Plant ("ACP") could be in commercial operations. During this period we will no longer be enriching uranium but making sales from our existing inventory, our future purchases from Russia and other potential sources of supply. We are seeking to minimize the period of transition until we have a new source of domestic U.S. enrichment production. We expect to continue discussions with customers regarding our existing backlog, including revisions to contracts to reflect our anticipated sources of supply and anticipated timing for the financing and commercial production from the ACP. For a discussion of the potential implications of the transition of the Paducah GDP, see Part II, Item 1A, Risk Factors.

We continued to make progress in demonstrating the American Centrifuge technology in 2013. We completed construction of our American Centrifuge commercial demonstration cascade in Piketon, Ohio during the spring, then shifted construction activities to preparing the facility for machine installation and installing new infrastructure systems. In the subsequent months we have completed formal integrated systems testing of plant infrastructure and control systems. We next conditioned the plant equipment and the 120 centrifuge machines with uranium gas before beginning demonstration of full cascade operations in early October. The 120-machine cascade is the centerpiece of the RD&D program with DOE. The objectives of the RD&D program are to demonstrate the American Centrifuge technology through the construction and operation of a commercial demonstration cascade and sustain the domestic U.S. centrifuge technical and industrial base for national security purposes and potential commercialization of the American Centrifuge technology. This includes activities to reduce the technical risks and improve the future prospects of deployment of the American Centrifuge technology.

The June 2012 cooperative agreement with DOE, as amended, includes nine technical milestones for the RD&D program. As of September 30, 2013, six of the milestones have been completed and certified by DOE and the final three milestones are targeted for completion at the end of the RD&D program on December 31, 2013. DOE has the right to terminate the cooperative agreement if any of the remaining technical milestones are not met. DOE also has the right to terminate the cooperative agreement if we materially fail to comply with the other terms and conditions of the cooperative agreement. Failure to meet the technical milestones under the cooperative agreement could provide a basis for DOE to exercise its remedies under the 2002 DOE-USEC Agreement.
In addition, the cooperative agreement contains five non-binding performance indicators that are designed to be achieved throughout the RD&D program and ensure that the RD&D program is on track to achieve the milestones and other program objectives. Four of the five performance indicators have been completed and certified by DOE, and the final performance indicator has been completed and documentation has been submitted for certification by DOE.

The cooperative agreement between USEC and DOE defines the scope, funding and technical goals for the RD&D program and provides for 80% DOE and 20% USEC cost sharing for work performed during the period June 1, 2012 through December 31, 2013. We expect cumulative spending for the RD&D program for the 19-month period to be approximately $320 million. DOE's contribution is incrementally funded and DOE has provided funding of $241.3 million. Although this funding is not sufficient to fund the RD&D program through December 2013, the most recent amendment to the cooperative agreement in October 2013, which provided $13.6 million of additional government funding, states that there is an expectation that DOE would provide additional funding for the RD&D program for the funding period ending December 31, 2013. The government fiscal year 2014


continuing appropriations resolution passed by Congress and signed by the President on October 16, 2013 provided for continued funding for the U.S. government from October 1, 2013 through January 15, 2014. This resolution continued funding for the RD&D program at the government fiscal year 2013 annual rate of $110 million, less any automatic spending cuts applied to U.S. government spending. We believe that this level of funding, if provided, will be sufficient to fund the RD&D program through December 31, 2013 and achieve the remaining technical milestones.

We plan to incorporate the 120-machine cascade in the full commercial plant of 96 identical cascades. USEC is in the process of developing an updated plan and evaluating alternatives for the financing and commercialization of the American Centrifuge project. Factors that can affect this plan include key variables related to project cost, schedule, market demand and market prices for low enriched uranium, financing costs and other financing terms. USEC has experienced cost pressures due to delays in deployment of the project. The economics of the project are severely challenged by the current supply/demand imbalance in the market for low enriched uranium and related downward pressure on spot market prices for SWU which are now at their lowest levels in more than a decade. At current market prices we do not believe that our plans for ACP commercialization are economically viable without additional government support. In addition, we do not currently have any financing in place for the project following completion of the RD&D program in December 2013 and anticipate that funding will be needed for the project for the period from completion of the RD&D program until the receipt of financing for commercial deployment. The amount of any such funding would depend on the level of operations, manufacturing and other project infrastructure that is to be maintained in order to support a potential future ramp up to commercialization as well as the length of time until financing could be obtained for the plant.

We are evaluating and pursuing the feasibility of alternatives and the actions necessary to proceed with the commercial deployment of the American Centrifuge technology, including the availability of additional government support and have initiated discussions with DOE regarding the project's need for this support. However, we have no assurance that we will be successful in achieving any of these measures or the timing thereof. In light of our liquidity, we do not have the ability to continue to fund the American Centrifuge project at its current levels beyond the end of 2013 without additional government support and even with this support our ability to provide funding in 2014 will be limited. Therefore, we continue to evaluate our options concerning the American Centrifuge project, including our ability to continue the project prior to or upon completion of the RD&D program, further demobilization of or delays in the commercial deployment of the project, and termination of the project, and could make a decision to demobilize or terminate the project in the near term. Any such actions may have a material adverse impact on our ability to deploy the American Centrifuge technology, on our liquidity and on the long-term viability of our enrichment business.

If we are able to obtain additional government support for the American Centrifuge project and to continue to fund the project beyond the RD&D program, we expect to need at least $4 billion of capital in order to commercially deploy the ACP. While a portion of that capital could include cash generated by the project during startup and additional capital contributions from USEC, the majority of the capital will need to come from third parties. We have been pursuing a loan guarantee under the DOE Loan Guarantee Program, which was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, in order to obtain the funding needed to complete the ACP. In July 2008, we applied under the DOE Loan Guarantee Program for $2 billion in U.S. government guaranteed debt financing for the ACP. We have also had discussions with Japanese export credit agencies regarding financing up to $1 billion of the cost of completing the ACP, with such potential financing predicated on our receiving a DOE loan guarantee. As part of the commercialization effort, we expect to need additional investors in the project which would reduce our ownership in the project. However, in order to successfully raise this capital, we need to demonstrate a viable business plan that supports loan repayment and provides potential investors with an attractive return on investment based on the project's risk profile. As described above, current enrichment market conditions do not support a viable business plan for obtaining the capital necessary for ACP commercialization without additional government support.

Our $530 million of convertible senior notes mature on October 1, 2014 and we will need to restructure this debt before its maturity date. In light of the significant transition of our business and the uncertainties and challenges


facing us and in order to address the convertible notes maturity and improve our credit profile and our ability to successfully finance and deploy the American Centrifuge project and to maximize our participation in such project, we are engaged with our advisors and certain stakeholders on alternatives for a possible restructuring of our balance sheet. Although the economics of the American Centrifuge project are severely challenged under current enrichment market conditions, we continue to believe that the deployment of the American Centrifuge project represents our clearest path to a long-term, direct source of domestic enrichment production, and therefore the long-term viability of our LEU business. We believe that a restructuring could improve the likelihood of success in the deployment of the American Centrifuge project. A restructuring of our balance sheet would be expected to adversely affect the holders of our common stock through dilution or loss in value. However, we have no assurance regarding the outcome of any discussions we pursue with creditors or other key stakeholders or that a restructuring of our balance sheet will lead to our obtaining financing for the American Centrifuge Plant.

We currently estimate that we could incur total employee related severance and benefit costs of approximately $15 million for all American Centrifuge workers in the event of a full demobilization of the project. In addition, we currently estimate ongoing contractual commitments at September 30, 2013 of approximately $40 million, including contractual termination penalties related to both prepayment and contractual commitment amounts in connection with a demobilization. Depending on the length of the demobilization period, we would also incur significant costs related to the execution of the demobilization in addition to the severance costs, contractual commitments, contractual termination penalties and other related costs described above. These costs would put significant demands on our liquidity. Additional information is provided in Part II, Item 1A, Risk Factors of this report and Part I, Items 1 and 2, "Business and Properties - The American Centrifuge Plant - Potential Project Demobilization" of USEC's 2012 annual report on Form 10-K.

We are in the last year of the 20-year contract implementing the Megatons to Megawatts program. In March 2011, we signed a commercial agreement with Russia that provides continued access to this important source of supply following the conclusion of the Megatons to Megawatts program and in the second quarter deliveries under this commercial agreement commenced. We have also agreed to conduct a feasibility study to explore the possible deployment of an enrichment plant in the United States employing Russian centrifuge technology.

We also must continue to effectively respond to events that occur that are outside of our control, including actions that may be taken by vendors, customers, creditors and other third parties in response to our decisions or based on their view of our financial strength and future business prospects. For a discussion of the potential risks and uncertainties facing our business, see Part II, Item 1A, Risk Factors, of this report and Part I, Item 1A, Risk Factors, of the 2012 annual report on Form 10-K.

LEU Segment

Revenue from Sales of SWU and Uranium

Revenue from our LEU segment is derived primarily from:

sales of the SWU component of LEU,

sales of both the SWU and uranium components of LEU, and

sales of uranium.

The majority of our customers are domestic and international utilities that operate nuclear power plants, with international sales constituting 17% of revenue from our LEU segment in 2012. Our agreements with electric utilities are primarily long-term, fixed-commitment contracts under which our customers are obligated to purchase a specified quantity of SWU from us or long-term requirements contracts under which our customers are obligated to purchase a percentage of their SWU requirements from us. Under requirements contracts, a customer only makes purchases when its reactor has requirements for additional fuel. Our agreements for uranium sales are generally shorter-term, fixed-commitment contracts.


Our revenues and operating results can fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter and year to year. Revenue is recognized at the time LEU or uranium is delivered under the terms of contracts with domestic and international electric utility customers. Customer demand is affected by, among other things, electricity markets, reactor operations, maintenance and the timing of refueling outages. Utilities typically schedule the shutdown of their reactors for refueling to coincide with the low electricity demand periods of spring and fall. Thus, some reactors are scheduled for annual or two-year refuelings in the spring or fall, or for 18-month cycles alternating between both seasons.

Customer payments for the SWU component of LEU typically average approximately $20 million per order. As a result, a relatively small change in the timing of customer orders for LEU due to a change in a customer's refueling schedule may cause operating results to be substantially above or below expectations. While many contracts require the purchase of fixed quantities of SWU, customer orders that are related to their requirements for enrichment may be delayed due to outages, changes in refueling schedules or delays in the initial startup of a reactor. Customer requirements and orders are more predictable over the longer term. Our revenue could be adversely affected by actions of the NRC or nuclear regulators in foreign countries issuing orders to modify, delay, suspend or shut down nuclear reactor operations within their jurisdictions.

In order to enhance our liquidity and manage our working capital in light of anticipated sales and inventory levels and to respond to customer-driven changes, we have been working with customers regarding the timing of their orders, in particular the advancement of those orders. Rather than selling material into the limited spot market for enrichment, USEC advanced orders from 2012 into 2011 and orders from 2013 into 2012. Based on our anticipated liquidity and working capital needs, we have worked with customers to advance orders from 2014 to 2013. If customers agree to advance orders without delivery, a sale is recorded as deferred revenue. Alternatively, if customers agree to advance orders and delivery, revenue is recorded in an earlier than originally anticipated period. The advancement of orders has the effect of accelerating our receipt of cash from such advanced sales, although the amount of cash and profit we receive from such sales may be reduced as a result of the terms mutually agreed with customers in connection with advancement.

Backlog is the estimated aggregate dollar amount of SWU and uranium sales that we expect to recognize as revenue in future periods under existing contracts with customers. Due to the current supply/demand imbalance in the market, we have not been able to achieve sufficient new sales to offset reductions in backlog resulting from annual deliveries including as a result of order advancements. We are seeing increased price competition as our competitors lower their prices to sell excess supply created by current market conditions and secondary suppliers liquidate inventories. This has adversely affected our sales efforts, and unless market conditions improve or we lower our prices to compete with this excess supply, we expect to continue to see a reduction to our sales backlog over time. Our ability to make new sales also is constrained by the uncertainty about our future prospects associated with the transition from production at the Paducah GDP to commercial production at the ACP. During the period of transition to commercialization of the ACP, we anticipate a lower level of revenues and sales, aligned with our anticipated sources of LEU from existing inventory and purchases of Russian LEU. We will need to enter into long-term contracts for production from the ACP in order to support the financing of the ACP, which would add to our longer-term backlog.

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