HALEU production prep to begin at Savannah River Site

April 3, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News

(Image: DOE)

The Department of Energy reported on March 30 that the Savannah River Site’s H Canyon facility recently initiated actions to recycle a small amount of used high-enriched uranium (HEU). SRS is a 310-square-mile DOE site in South Carolina.

The HEU, which is currently stored at the site’s H Area, will be downblended in a few years into high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which will help to provide fuel for advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.

The DOE has a brief video available with graphic information about HALEU.

A better way: HALEU is more desirable for use in nuclear power reactor designs because it allows for smaller designs, longer-life cores, increased fuel efficiency, and less waste, according to the DOE.

“The projected demand for HALEU far exceeds the current supply,” said Jeff Hasty, HALEU program manager for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site’s managing and operating contractor. “Because of H Canyon’s most recent mission of blending HEU into LEU for commercial fuel reactors, H Canyon has stored HEU solutions available for use.”

Meeting specs: Savannah River National Laboratory [SRNL] has completed analyses to show that downblending of HEU from H Canyon’s liquid solutions could meet specifications needed for advanced reactors. The analyses helped SRS in initiating the planned HALEU project in H Canyon, according to the DOE.

“SRNL plays a major role in the research of the nuclear fuel cycle and development and is always excited to see our efforts applied in real world applications,” said Bill Bates, the environmental and legacy management deputy associate laboratory director.

Prep work: The facility has begun preparations for the pending mission, which will include equipment repair, training, procedure revisions, and environmental impact analysis. Support is also being provided by SRNL to complete a detailed set of sample analyses to ensure the HALEU meets reactor material specifications and to certify the shipping containers for material transport. Downblending is expected to begin in 2025.

“This approval is a win-win,” said Hasty. “H Canyon has a useful path for the stored HEU, and at the same time, HALEU availability is increased for the emerging advanced reactors.”

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