Congress needs to take swift action to build a domestic supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to fuel advanced reactors, the American Nuclear Society declares in a September 14 letter to Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the committee’s ranking member.
The letter, signed by ANS President Steven Nesbit and Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy, notes that while many advanced reactor designs—including nine of the 10 designs awarded funding under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program—require HALEU (uranium enriched to between 5 percent and 20 percent) as reactor fuel, it is currently available only in limited amounts from the DOE via downblending of existing stockpiles of material and from Russian imports.
“Without a substantial domestic HALEU enrichment capability, we risk not having the fuel needed to power advanced nuclear energy as part of our clean energy future,” the letter states. “Long-term reliance on Russian state-owned uranium producers exposes our largest carbon-free energy source to unacceptable business and political risk. The maturation of new nuclear technologies and advanced reactor designs underscores the need for securing our domestic nuclear fuel supply chains.”
ANS calls for an investment of $200 million annually over five years to process DOE material at levels sufficient to supply demonstrations of next-generation reactor designs. “To address enrichment,” the letter adds, “ANS recommends $1.5 billion total over 10 years to produce 20 tons annually, which is what our experts believe will be needed in that time frame.”