DOE-NE opens HALEU Consortium with focus on information exchange

December 8, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
(Image: DOE))

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy announced December 7 that its new HALEU Consortium is open for membership. And not just from U.S. enrichers, fuel fabricators, and others working in the front-end fuel cycle, but from “any U.S. entity, association, and government organization involved in the nuclear fuel cycle,” and—at the DOE’s discretion—“organizations whose facilities are in ally or partner nations.” The HALEU Consortium will essentially serve as an information clearinghouse to meet DOE-NE’s ongoing needs for firm supply and demand data as it supports the development of a commercial domestic high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) infrastructure to fuel advanced reactors. The consortium is open for business almost one full year after the DOE first requested public input on its structure.

Centrus signs to complete HALEU demo in 2023 as the DOE prepares draft RFP

December 6, 2022, 9:49AMNuclear News
These gas centrifuges operated in the Piketon facility from 2013 to 2016 as part of a 120-machine low-enriched uranium demonstration cascade. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

Centrus Energy confirmed on December 1 that its wholly owned subsidiary American Centrifuge Operating signed a contract with the Department of Energy, which was first announced on November 10, to complete and operate a demo-scale high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) gaseous centrifuge cascade.

Got Fuel? Prospective HALEU enrichers and buyers talk goals and timelines

December 2, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
From left: Christina Leggett (Booz Allen Hamilton), Morris Hassler (IB3 Global Solutions), Everett Redmond (Oklo), Andy Griffith (DOE-NE), Ben Jordan (Centrus), Stephen Long (GLE), and Magnus Mori (Urenco).

Whether commercial demand for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel ultimately falls at the high or low end of divergent forecasts, one thing is certain: the United States is not ready to meet demand, because it currently has no domestic HALEU enrichment capacity. But conversations happening now could help build the commercial HALEU enrichment infrastructure needed to support advanced reactor deployments. At the 2022 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting, representatives from three potential HALEU enrichers, the government, and industry met to discuss their timelines and challenges during “Got Fuel? Progress Toward Establishing a Domestic US HALEU Supply,” a November 15 executive session cosponsored by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy Division and the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division.

Two reports agree: Diverse advanced reactor fuel cycles can succeed

November 23, 2022, 6:39AMNuclear News

Advanced reactors and small modular reactors with strikingly different coolants and sizes offer an array of different benefits, but when it comes to fuel cycle issues, including spent fuel and waste, they have a lot in common with conventional light water reactors. Two reports released within the last week—a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) consensus committee report two years in the making and a Department of Energy study released by Argonne National Laboratory—address the timely topic of advanced reactor fuel cycle issues. While the NASEM committee ventured to define research and infrastructure needs to support the entire nuclear power fuel cycle, inclusive of new technologies, for decades to come, the DOE report compares the front- and back-end fuel cycle metrics of three reactor designs (from NuScale Power, TerraPower, and X-energy) that have been selected for DOE cost-share–funded demonstrations within this decade. Together, these reports provide assurance that the fuel cycle needs of a fleet of new reactors can be met and point to near-term research and planning needs.

Virginia Uranium’s new owner hopes to wait out mining moratorium

November 21, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Coles Hill property location. (Image: Consolidated Uranium)

Consolidated Uranium plans to acquire Virginia Energy Resources, which owns Virginia Uranium and the Coles Hill Uranium Project, an undeveloped uranium deposit that sits under about 3,000 acres of land in south central Virginia. The state’s General Assembly has maintained a moratorium on uranium mining since 1982 that was upheld in the courts as recently as 2020, but Consolidated Uranium sees reason for “confidence that the moratorium on developing uranium projects in the state may ultimately be overcome,” and appears content to settle in for a wait.

Centrus Energy gets more time and money to complete HALEU demo

November 15, 2022, 12:08PMNuclear News
Centrifuge casings arrive in Piketon, Ohio. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

The Department of Energy announced a cost-shared award on November 10 valued at about $150 million for American Centrifuge Operating, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy, to complete the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) demonstration project it began in 2019. After delays that Centrus attributes in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company now has until the end of 2023 to produce the first 20 kilograms of HALEU enriched to 19.75 percent U-235 from the 16-centrifuge cascade it has installed in a DOE-owned Piketon, Ohio, facility—the only U.S. facility currently licensed to produce HALEU.

DOE plans offtake contracts to stock a HALEU bank “as soon as possible”

October 21, 2022, 9:13AMNuclear News
An image from the video “What is High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU)?” released by the DOE in April 2020. (Source: DOE)

Another piece of the plan for meeting the urgent need for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to fuel advanced reactor deployments fell into place when the Department of Energy held an Industry Day on October 14. Attendees were asked how soon they could deliver 25 metric tons per year of HALEU enriched in the United States from newly mined uranium. Offtake contracts for six or more years of HALEU production at that rate could be used to stock a DOE-owned HALEU bank to “support [HALEU] availability for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use.”

TRISO-X breaks ground on Oak Ridge fuel facility as licensing work continues

October 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Government officials and representatives of X-energy and its TRISO-X subsidiary at the October 13 groundbreaking. (Photo: X-energy)

Leaders of X-energy and its TRISO-X subsidiary gathered on October 13 to break ground at the site of what X-energy bills as “North America’s first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility” in Oak Ridge, Tenn. X-energy expects the TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) to create more than 400 jobs and to be commissioned and operational by 2025.

Ultra Safe Nuclear opens pilot-scale TRISO fuel facility in Oak Ridge

August 22, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Terrani, Huff, and Fleischmann had the honor of cutting the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the Pilot Fuel Manufacturing facility. (Photo: USNC)

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) celebrated the opening of its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on August 18 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour attended by assistant secretary for nuclear energy Kathryn Huff, Tennessee lieutenant governor Randy McNally, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R.), representatives from the offices of Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R.) and Bill Hagerty (R.), and other distinguished guests. The next day, radiological operations began at the privately funded facility, which was designed and built in less than twelve months within an existing industrial building purchased by USNC in 2021.

GLE eyes earlier enrichment, inks agreements with two largest U.S. utilities

July 11, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) signed separate, nonbinding letters of intent in June with the two largest nuclear power operators in the United States—Constellation and Duke Energy—to assess potential nuclear fuel supply chain cooperation, including support for GLE’s deployment of laser enrichment technology in the United States. According to GLE president and chief commercial officer James Dobchuk, who delivered a presentation on June 7 at the World Nuclear Fuel Market Annual Meeting, the company’s baseline deployment schedule could be accelerated by about three years (under favorable market conditions) to supply the nuclear fuel market with uranium in a range of enrichment levels in 2027.

TRISO-X applies for advanced reactor fuel facility license

April 11, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
Pictured from left to right: John Tappert, NRC; Jonathan Rowley, NRC; Jacob Zimmerman, NRC; Matthew Bartlett, NRC; Tim Beville, DOE; Jennifer Wheeler, TRISO-X; John Lubinski, NRC; Pete Pappano, TRISO-X; Jill Caverly, NRC; and Shana Helton, NRC. (Photo: X-energy)

TRISO-X submitted a license application for a high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel fabrication facility to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on April 6, the day after parent company X-energy announced that TRISO-X had secured a 110-acre site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the construction of the facility, which it is aiming to have operating in 2025.

Barrasso introduces bill to prioritize HALEU supply chain and demo reactor needs

April 8, 2022, 9:20AMNuclear News
Ingots of HALEU derived from pyroprocessing of EBR-II driver fuel at Idaho National Laboratory. (Photo: INL)

On April 7, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced the Fueling Our Nuclear Future Act of 2022. The bill would ensure a domestic supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) for advanced nuclear reactors by directing the Department of Energy to prioritize establishing a domestic HALEU enrichment capability and to use enriched uranium held by the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration to fuel advanced reactor demonstrations until U.S. commercial enrichment is available. The bill explicitly excludes uranium sourced or processed by any entity owned or controlled by the governments of Russia and China.

TRISO-X aims to have commercial fuel plant operating in 2025

April 5, 2022, 9:49PMNuclear News
Artist's rendering of the proposed TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) at the Horizon Center Industrial Park, in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Image: X-energy)

X-energy has announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, TRISO-X, plans to build the TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility, dubbed TF3, at the Horizon Center Industrial Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. X-energy has produced kilogram quantities of fuel at its pilot plant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory through a public-private partnership.

The commercial plant will use high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to produce TRISO particles, which are fabricated into fuel forms, including the spherical graphite “pebbles” needed to fuel the company’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor. Site preparation and construction are expected to get underway in 2022, and commissioning and start-up are scheduled for as early as 2025, according to X-energy.

ANS webinar looked at building domestic HALEU production capacity

March 16, 2022, 12:00PMANS News

The United States must ramp up the domestic production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the panelists agreed during a March 11 members-only webinar held amid heightened concerns about energy security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the day after Congress approved $45 million for the HALEU Availability Program for fiscal year 2022.

John Starkey, ANS director of public policy, moderated the webinar, which featured panelists Scott Kopple, senior director of government relations at BWX Technologies; Everett Redmond, senior technical advisor at the Nuclear Energy Institute; Benjamin Reinke, senior director of corporate strategy and advisor to the CEO at X-energy; Patrick White, project manager at the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA); and Brad Williams, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee staff.

A recording of the webinar is available to ANS members.

Cameco to restart production at McArthur River uranium mine

February 14, 2022, 9:00AMNuclear News
Mining at McArthur River takes place between 530 and 640 meters belowground. (Photo: Cameco)

Citing “improving market sentiment,” Tim Gitzel, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian uranium mining company Cameco, announced on February 9 the planned restart of operations at the McArthur River mine in Saskatchewan.

Vogtle-2 to test Westinghouse fuel enriched to 6 percent

January 31, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
ADOPT fuel pellets developed by Westinghouse through the DOE's Accident Tolerant Fuel Program. (Photo: Westinghouse)

Westinghouse Electric Company and Southern Nuclear have agreed to a plan to install four Westinghouse lead test assemblies in Vogtle-2, a 1,169-MWe pressurized water reactor located in Waynesboro, Ga. Four lead test assemblies containing uranium enriched up to 6 percent U-235 will be loaded in Vogtle-2 in 2023, marking the first time that fuel rods with uranium enriched above 5 percent U-235 are put in use in a U.S. commercial power reactor.

BWXT to demonstrate TRISO fuel line operations under contract extension

January 24, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear News

BWX Technologies announced on January 24 that it has been awarded a $4.9 million contract amendment to produce TRISO fuel particles using natural uranium and to demonstrate performance under a defined production schedule. BWXT’s Nuclear Operations Group will perform the work at BWXT’s Lynchburg, Va., facility, where TRISO production was restarted in November 2020. The contract amendment was awarded by Battelle Energy Alliance, which manages Idaho National Laboratory on behalf of the Department of Energy.

Shadow corrosion is reproduced in University of Michigan lab

January 14, 2022, 9:36AMNuclear News
[CLICK TO VIEW FULL IMAGE] The diagram at left illustrates the experimental setup and the resulting zirconium oxide layer of varying thickness. The second diagram shows the circular zirconium alloy sample that is affected by the band of nickel alloy and radiation. Finally, the electron image at right shows a band of oxidation on the zirconium alloy sample. (Images: Peng Wang, Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory)

A longstanding issue in boiling water reactors—shadow corrosion on zirconium alloy fuel rods and fuel channels—has been reproduced in the Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory as part of an effort to understand and prevent the phenomenon. Research led by Peng Wang, a University of Michigan assistant research scientist in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, was published in the January 2022 issue of the Journal of Nuclear Materials and described in a recent university news article.

How would you design a HALEU Consortium? The DOE wants to know

December 17, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
(Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy asks no fewer than 21 multipart questions in its request for information on plans to set up a new program to ensure the availability of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) in the United States, encompassing the who, what, when, where, and how of HALEU enrichment, deconversion, fabrication, and transportation. Interested parties were given just 30 days from the December 14 announcement to send their input to the DOE; the deadline is January 13.

Details: Written comments and information are requested on or before January 13. They can be submitted online at regulations.gov or by email to rfi-haleu@hq.doe.gov in a Microsoft Word or a PDF file. See the full request for information published in the Federal Register for additional information.