Centrus Energy and the Department of Energy announced November 7 that Centrus has produced 20 kilograms of HALEU at the DOE-owned American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, satisfying Phase One of a DOE contract to stand up and operate 16 advanced centrifuges. Centrus will now move on to Phase Two of the contract, which requires a full year of HALEU production at a rate of 900 kilograms per year.
According to Centrus’s own announcement of the milestone, Phase One included a 50 percent cost-share requirement, with the company and the DOE each contributing about $30 million of the $60 million cost. In Phase Two, the DOE will pay Centrus for HALEU production on a cost-plus incentive fee basis.
Extended contract fulfilled: The DOE awarded a contract in November 2022 to American Centrifuge Operating, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy, to complete and operate the enrichment cascade—and deliver 20 kilograms of HALEU—by December 31, 2023. That contract amounted to an extension of a three-year contract signed by the parties in October 2019; the original $115 million contract called for the first production of HALEU by June 2022. After delays that Centrus attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company was given until the end of 2023 to produce the first 20 kilograms of HALEU enriched to 19.75 percent U-235.
Centrus started enriching limited quantities of uranium hexafluoride gas into HALEU in mid-October. According to Centrus, the DOE will take delivery of the HALEU on-site and is obligated to provide HALEU storage cylinders to collect the HALEU from the cascade. The HALEU will be stored on-site in a facility constructed by Centrus until it is needed. It is earmarked to help fuel the initial cores of the demonstration reactors designed by TerraPower and X-energy and awarded cost-shared funding under the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, and to support fuel qualification and the testing of new reactor designs.
Words of praise: “This critical milestone is essential to meeting the Department’s near-term HALEU needs while laying the groundwork for the full restoration of America’s lost domestic uranium enrichment capacity,” said Centrus president and chief executive officer Daniel B. Poneman. “We are committed to working with the Department and industry to build a public-private partnership so that we can scale up production in the coming years to meet the full range of commercial and national security requirements for enriched uranium.”
“Meeting this first production mark is very exciting for everyone involved in the Piketon demonstration project,” said Jon Carmack, the DOE’s deputy assistant secretary for nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain. “Centrus reached this accomplishment ahead of schedule and has proven the domestic capability to produce HALEU for the next generation of nuclear reactors.”