Participating in the forum were (from left) John Hopkins (NuScale Power), Renaud Crassous (EDF), Daniel Poneman (Centrus Energy), Adriana Cristina Serquis (CNEA), and Boris Schucht (Urenco).
The nuclear industry leaders assembled in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss small modular reactor supply chains agreed that lost generation capacity from the expected retirement of hundreds or thousands of coal power plants over the next decade—a cliff, in one panelist’s words—represents an opportunity that developers of SMRs and advanced reactors are competing to meet.
“I think in total 80 projects are ongoing,” said Boris Schucht, panel moderator and chief executive officer of Urenco Group, as he opened the forum. “Of course not all of them will win, and we will discuss today what is needed so that they can be successful.”
The TRISO-X fuel pebble shown here contains TRISO particles—HALEU-bearing kernels of oxide and carbide in alternating layers of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide. (Image: X-energy)
X-energy and Centrus Energy announced last week that they have completed the preliminary design of the TRISO-X fuel fabrication facility and have signed a contract for the next phase of work. The planned facility would produce TRISO fuel particles and pack those particles into fuel forms, including the spherical graphite “pebbles” needed to fuel X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor.
(Click photo to enlarge) One of 16 AC100M gas centrifuges built by Centrus Energy for HALEU production in Piketon, Ohio. (Photo: Centrus Energy)
For years, pressure has been building for a commercial path to a stable supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)—deemed essential for the deployment of advanced power reactors—but advanced reactor developers and enrichment companies are still watching and waiting. In contrast, the uranium spot price soared after Sprott Physical Uranium Trust, a Canadian investment fund formed in July, began buying up U3O8 supplies, causing the price to increase over 60 percent, topping $50 per pound for the first time since 2012. Fueled by growing acknowledgment that nuclear power is a necessary part of a clean energy future, uranium is the focus of attention from Wall Street to Capitol Hill.
Centrus’s American Centrifuge Plant, in Piketon, Ohio. Photo: Centrus Energy
Centrus Energy Corporation has announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the company’s license amendment request to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium at its Piketon, Ohio, enrichment facility. The Piketon plant is now the only U.S. facility licensed to enrich uranium up to 20 percent uranium-235, and it is expected to begin demonstrating HALEU production early next year, according to Centrus.