LIS Technologies Inc. a USA based, proprietary developer of a patented advanced laser technology with a wide range of applications including uranium enrichment, with several major advantages over traditional methods such as gas diffusion and centrifuges, has just announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Laser Isotope Separation Technologies Corp., has reached a share purchase agreement to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of CRISLA Inc.

CRISLA, Inc. is the proprietary developer of a patented advanced laser technology, making use of specific wavelengths to selectively excite the molecules of desired isotopomers to separate them from other isotopomers. A United States Patent and Trademark Office issued patent protects the company’s unique process for enriching a selected isotope of uranium in a supersonic low-pressure flow chamber. This technology has a vast range of applications, including uranium enrichment for nuclear fuel, the production of stable isotopes for medical and scientific research, and applications in quantum computing manufacturing for semiconductor technologies.

Figure 1 – Jeff W. Eerkens Ph.D. Appointed as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Christo J. Liebenberg Appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LIS Technologies Inc.

Following the closing of the acquisition, Jeff W. Eerkens Ph.D. will be appointed as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Christo J. Liebenberg will be appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LIS Technologies Inc.

Figure 2 – Jeff W. Eerkens Ph.D. Appointed as the new Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of LIS Technologies Inc.

Jeff W. Eerkens obtained an MS degree in Nuclear Engineering (1957) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Science (1960) from the University of California at Berkeley. A registered nuclear engineer in the State of California, he explored Molecular Laser Isotope Separation (MLIS) of gaseous UF6 and hexafluorides MoF6 and SF6. Now considered the father of Laser Enrichment of UF6, he utilized CO2 and CO infrared lasers and two different isotope harvesting techniques labeled CRISLA (Condensation Repression Isotope Separation by Laser Activation) and CHEMLIS (Chemically Harvested and Extracted MLIS).

Dr. Eerkens is a strong advocate for nuclear power and published a book titled “The Nuclear Imperative – A Critical Look at the Approaching Energy Crisis”, 2nd ed (2010). He has hands-on experience with nuclear reactors, uranium enrichment, nuclear rockets, and space satellite engineering. In 1973, he authored the “Rocket Plume Radiation Handbook”, Vols I, II, and VII, for the USAF, FTD, WPAFB, Dayton, Ohio.

“The dearth of viable uranium enrichment solutions in the United States will have dire consequences for the future of nuclear energy if it isn’t rectified quickly,” said Dr Jeff Eerkens, Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of LIS Technologies Inc. “Thankfully, accelerating efforts to advance the CRISLA laser enrichment process are driven by a growing recognition of a compelling need for new US enrichment capability to support nuclear power generation, given recent dramatic changes in the geopolitical situation and climate change issues. The agreement with LIS Technologies elevates our platform and will enhance our ability to deliver a significant breakthrough for the United States’ uranium enrichment capabilities.”

Figure 3 – Christo J. Liebenberg Appointed as new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LIS Technologies Inc.

Christo J. Liebenberg obtained his MS degree in Physics from Stellenbosch University (1991) in South Africa. He is an accomplished professional with 35 years of diverse technical & management experience in advanced laser & optical systems and applications. Most of this experience is in the field of Laser Isotope Separation of UF6, and he was involved in several classified laser enrichment processes on three different continents. He (co-)authored at least ten patents and technical papers/reports, mostly in the classified space.

Mr. Liebenberg started his career in the 1980’s at the Atomic Energy Corporation of South Africa where he spearheaded the optimization of enrichment parameters for the Molecular Laser Isotope Separation (MLIS) process. By the late 90’s, his journey led him to Australia where he later joined Silex Systems Ltd as their Laser Manager and continued this role at Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) in Wilmington, NC where he played a key role in the architecture of the Test Loop Facility. Over the last 10 years he was intricately involved with the R&D of state-of-the-art CO2 laser systems to generate EUV (Extreme Ultraviolet), which is used to manufacture modern semiconductor chips.

Championing CRISLA’s Revival: Mr Liebenberg has always kept a close eye on developments of Dr. Eerkens’s CRISLA process. In 2016, he did a critical risk analysis of CRISLA-3G, which included developing a scaling model of the process. Enthralled by impressive enrichment results, favorable techno-economics, seismic geo-political events, the advent of SMR’s and the DOE quest for a US-origin enrichment technology, he recognized the need to resurrect the CRISLA process. He co-founded CRISLA, Inc with Dr Eerkens in June 2021.

“We are very excited to enter into this agreement with LIS Technologies in this crucial junction in time for the entire nuclear industry. The transaction will provide the company with the platform to grow and expand upon our current intellectual property and proprietary technologies,” said Christo Liebenberg, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of LIS Technologies Inc. “We are confident that the CRISLA laser enrichment process will prove to be the most cost effective and best suited technology to produce Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) for existing commercial reactors as well as High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) for the advanced smaller modular reactors currently under development.”

Figure 4 – Process of Creating Nuclear Fuel for Reactors

Raw uranium must be mined out of the ground and milled into uranium-oxide (U3O8) before being shipped to facilities that convert it into uranium-hexafluoride (UF6), which is suitable for enrichment. The enriched UF6 is sent to fuel fabrication facilities where it is converted into UO2 and fabricated into accident resistant fuel pellets.

According to Columbia’s Center for Global Energy Policy, Russia is the only commercial source for this high-assay low-enriched uranium and has accounted for nearly 40% of global uranium conversion services in 2020. From 1993 to 2013, downblended Russian high-enriched uranium (HEU) provided about half of the enriched uranium used in US power reactors, as part of the “Megatons to Megawatts” program.

“Unfortunately, the U.S. lacks capacity to fully produce enriched uranium, and it has resulted in an unsafe reliance on Russia—who could cut off uranium exports to us at any time,” said Senator Risch (R-ID) in his introduction of the Reduce Russian Uranium Imports Act, a bipartisan bill to prohibit the importation into the United States of  low-enriched uranium of Russian origin.

The United States government, however, has taken steps to grow its domestic capabilities. Senator Manchin (D-WV), alongside Senator Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Risch (R-ID), introduced the Nuclear Fuel Security Act to establish a nuclear fuel program with the purpose of onshoring nuclear fuel production to support the development of advanced reactors and the operation of the United States’ light-water reactor fleet. Furthermore, the US Congress, through the Inflation Reduction Act, provided $700 million to support the development of a domestic supply chain for high-assay low-enriched uranium. In addition, the HALEU Consortium was established on December 7th, 2022, under the Energy Act of 2020 to support the availability of high-assay low-enriched uranium for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use.