TerraPower and Centrus Energy Corp. announced on July 17 that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to “significantly expand their collaboration aimed at establishing commercial-scale, domestic production capabilities for high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU)” to supply fuel for TerraPower’s first Natrium reactor. Nearly three years ago, TerraPower first announced plans to work with Centrus to establish commercial-scale HALEU production facilities. The two companies signed a contract in 2021 for services to help expedite the commercialization of enrichment technology at Centrus’s Piketon, Ohio, facility.
The plans: Under the new MOU, Centrus and TerraPower plan to collaborate to “ensure the Natrium demonstration reactor has access to HALEU at the milestones necessary to meet the project’s 2030 operation date” by establishing “a cost-competitive and timely source of enrichment capacity in the United States at Centrus’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)-licensed HALEU production facility.”
The NRC granted a license amendment to Centrus in June 2021. In February 2023, Centrus completed the operational readiness review for its HALEU production facility and in June received permission from the NRC to begin operations on a demonstration scale.
As part of the MOU, Centrus plans to scale up production capacity with additional centrifuge cascades to meet TerraPower’s HALEU needs. Centrus has previously said that a full-scale, 120-machine HALEU cascade could produce about 6 metric tons of HALEU per year and could be brought on line “within about 42 months [3.5 years] of securing the funding to do so.”
They said it: “TerraPower is committed to a successful and timely delivery of the Natrium demonstration reactor,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower president and chief executive officer. “This expanded collaboration with Centrus represents TerraPower’s commitment to reinvigorating the domestic supply chain as we bring advanced reactors to market within the decade.”
“Centrus is ready to pioneer U.S. HALEU production and to meet the needs of TerraPower in bringing their advanced reactor to market,” said Daniel B. Poneman, Centrus president and chief executive officer. “American HALEU production is vital for deploying U.S.-designed advanced nuclear reactors. Establishing the domestic HALEU supply chain is critical for our energy independence.”