PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Uranium enrichment is getting underway this week at a facility in southern Ohio, a federally authorized demonstration project considered critical to produce the type of fuel needed for newer, more efficient nuclear reactors.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Centrus Energy Corp. will be producing the high-assay, low-enriched uranium at the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, about 68 miles (109 kilometers) south of Columbus. That form of uranium contains far more of the isotope U-235 than is typically found in current nuclear reactor fuel.

At an event on Wednesday, Centrus chief executive and president Daniel Poneman called it “the first launch of a new U.S. technology uranium enrichment plant to begin production in this country since 1954,” the Columbus Dispatch reported. He said it will fuel smaller and more efficient nuclear reactors that will have longer operating cycles as well as fuel for existing reactors.

The 3,800-acre (1,500 hectare) site was where uranium had been enriched until 2001 at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Poneman said the U.S. has since become the world’s biggest importer of enriched uranium. Cleanup and decontamination of the Portsmouth plant are continuing.

Centrus now has 125 workers there, but hundreds more may be added.