NRC accepts Centrus Energy’s application for HALEU license expansion

June 24, 2020, 3:06PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review Centrus Energy Corporation’s application to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium at its facility in Piketon, Ohio, the company announced on June 23. HALEU-based fuels will be required for most of the advanced reactor designs currently under development and may also be utilized in next-generation fuels for the existing fleet of reactors in the United States and around the world.

Centrus celebrates: “With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Centrus is proud to be leading the way in the development of a domestic source of HALEU that can meet a wide range of commercial, nonproliferation, and other national security requirements,” said Centrus President and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Poneman. “Providing an assured, domestic supply of HALEU will help restore U.S. nuclear leadership internationally and is a prerequisite for the United States to play a major role in building and fueling the world’s nuclear reactors and setting global standards for nuclear safety and nonproliferation. We appreciate the dedicated work by the NRC on this initial step and look forward to working with them as the process moves forward from here.”

Background: In 2019, Centrus entered into a three-year, $115-million cost-shared contract with the DOE to deploy its AC-100M centrifuge technology and to demonstrate the production of HALEU (NN, June 2020, p. 62). According to Centrus, the demonstration program is on schedule and on budget, with the first set of outer casings for the centrifuges having been delivered to Piketon after being manufactured in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Centrus’s Piketon facility is already licensed to enrich uranium to a concentration of up to 10 percent U-235, making it the only U.S. facility licensed for enrichment above 5 percent. If the NRC gives final approval of the HALEU license amendment, Centrus will be licensed to enrich uranium up to 20 percent U-235. Next-generation reactors and fuel designs will require a range of enrichment levels, but many are expected to be as high as 19.75 percent. A number of advanced reactor and fuel developers have announced plans to use HALEU-based fuel in their designs.

For more on HALEU: Check out the “Looking high and low for HALEU” feature in the September 2019 issue of Nuclear News, page 26.

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