Centrus Part 10: Philip Sewell has been there since the beginning

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Philip Sewell has been part of the enrichment world since 1975, when he was first brought into the Department of Energy. He was part of the U.S. government team that went to Russia and saw what the nuclear program was like after the Soviet collapse. He moved over to USEC and was in charge of the Megatons to Megawatts program there. He has been there the whole way as USEC became Centrus and no longer enriches. Being the Chief Development Officer and a Senior Vice President means he has a lot of control in a company that is on the decline.

Short bio

Sewell got his bachelors from the University of Maryland and a masters from George Washington University. His degrees are in aerospace engineering and business administration. He went to the Department of Defense, where he worked on rocket propulsion projects. He then went to the Department of Energy, where from 1975 to 1987, he was part of the nation’s enrichment program. After that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy where he was in charge of the enrichment process for the entire department.

During his time as Deputy Assistant Secretary, he was sent to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He did not like what he saw, so he was one of the people who helped start the Megatons to Megawatts. He was part of USEC as it was privatized. He was also part of the effort to stop French imports of uranium. He is also one of, if not the highest, paid employees with the company. He is paid almost $2 million.

Russia

Here is what he had to say about his visit to Russia.

“Windows were broken, gates were not locked, and there were very few people around,” Sewell says. But inside these crumbling buildings, the Russian government stored the uranium from thousands of decommissioned nuclear weapons. It seemed like practically anyone could walk off with stuff for a bomb. Sewell and his colleagues wanted to get rid of this uranium. So they decided to try to persuade the Russians to sell their surplus to the U.S. After all, the stuff was just lying around. Initially, the Russians refused. “It was a matter of pride, principle and patriotism,” Sewell says. “Even though they didn’t need that excess material, [and] they didn’t have the money to protect it, they didn’t want to let go of it.”

But in the end they did let go. For one reason: money.“Russia’s nuclear industry badly needed the funding,” says Anton Khlopkov, the director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies outside Moscow. He says Russia’s nuclear complex had nearly a million workers who weren’t getting paid a living wage.

The French uranium issues

In the early days of the century, France was trying to sell uranium. Several people in the United States side of the uranium business, including Sewell, spoke out against this. The government made an anti-dumping order. After a Congressional hearing and a court case, the French got the order overturned. Part of the issue was the Russian uranium and how it was affecting the market. That was why Sewell was turned to, because of his expertise.

Next article will discuss the French uranium.

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