Hot U market and simmering interest in HALEU: It boils down to demand

September 22, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
(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.

Results of advanced nuclear survey released

September 21, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

The U.S. Nuclear Industry Council has released the results of its 2021 Advanced Nuclear Survey.

The results, issued late last month, include information from 17 USNIC-member advanced nuclear developers on topics such as federal and state policies, types of reactors in development, U.S./Canadian licensing, need for control room operators, Nuclear Regulatory Commission fees, Department of Energy programs, and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). In addition, 24 companies (the 17 member firms plus seven nonmember firms) provided their perspectives on the NRC’s planned 10 CFR Part 53 regulation of advanced reactors.

ANS urges Congress to address availability of HALEU for advanced reactor fuel

September 16, 2021, 9:30AMANS News
Click image to enlarge

Congress needs to take swift action to build a domestic supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to fuel advanced reactors, the American Nuclear Society declares in a September 14 letter to Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the committee’s ranking member.

ANS URGES CONGRESS TO DEVELOP U.S. FUEL SUPPLY FOR ADVANCED NUCLEAR

September 15, 2021, 3:42PMUpdated September 15, 2021, 3:43PMPress Releases

The United States Congress needs to take swift action to build a domestic supply of fuel for advanced reactors and to avoid future dependence on Russia for advanced nuclear fuel, the American Nuclear Society wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

House appropriators pass bill with more funding for nuclear energy

July 19, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News

The House Committee on Appropriations last week approved an Energy and Water Development funding bill for fiscal year 2022 that provides an 11 percent increase for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

Reported favorably out of committee on July 16 via a party-line vote of 33 to 24, the House bill sports a total price tag of $53.2 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion from the FY 2021 enacted level. (The committee’s official report on appropriations for the next fiscal year can be found here.)

Senate panel endorses energy infrastructure bill

July 15, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday approved a bill on energy infrastructure, including initiatives that would provide a boost to the U.S. nuclear industry.

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The Energy Infrastructure Act, which is expected to serve as the legislative text for key portions of a more comprehensive $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, was approved 13–7, following the adoption of 48 amendments. All committee Democrats voted in favor of the bill, as well as three of the panel’s 10 GOP members, Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Steve Daines of Montana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Two well-known Republican proponents of nuclear, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Jim Risch of Idaho, voted no. (Barrasso expressed a number of concerns with the bill, including its price tag.)

Centrus approved for HALEU production

June 21, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
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.

NRC's RIC: A clear line of sight for accident tolerant fuel deployment

March 12, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

To nuclear fuel suppliers, today’s operating reactors represent a defined customer base with predictable demands. Utilities must order their next fuel reload far in advance of an outage; enrichers and fabricators work to fill those orders. Adapting such a highly optimized supply chain to accommodate new products—fuels with new materials, claddings, and higher enrichments and burnups—will require alignment between all parties involved to meet the associated research, enrichment, manufacturing, regulatory, transportation, and operating experience needs.

That was the consensus during “Current Accident Tolerant Fuel Environment,” a technical session held on March 9 during the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's four-day Regulatory Information Conference (RIC, March 8-11). The session was chaired by NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson, who was taking part in his first RIC as a member of the commission.

Fuel innovation: Powering nuclear modernization

January 18, 2021, 9:35AMNuclear NewsBen Holtzman

Today’s U.S. commercial nuclear power plants are fueled with uranium dioxide pressed into cylindrical ceramic pellets—and have been for decades. These pellets are stacked inside long fuel rods made of a zirconium alloy cladding. Innovation in nuclear fuel, however, can improve safety, reduce operating costs, and further enable the development of a new generation of non-light-water reactors.

Congress set to pass year-end funding bill

December 22, 2020, 12:08PMNuclear News

The final text of the approximately 5,600-page Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 was released on December 22. While the timing of final passage is still fluid, the Senate was expected to approve it and send it on to President Trump to sign into law, according to John Starkey, American Nuclear Society government relations director.

Below are some key funding highlights from the legislation pertaining to nuclear energy.

Nuclear champions make another push for NELA

October 22, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Elaine Luria (D., Va.), along with 29 of their colleagues, sent a letter last week to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, urging them to include the text of the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) in the final fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Murkowski joined Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and 18 other lawmakers in a similar letter to the Senate Armed Service Committee earlier this year. Murkowski and Booker introduced NELA on September 6, 2018 (NN, Oct. 2018, p. 39).

The House and Senate passed their respective versions of the NDAA in July, by votes of 295–125 and 86–14, respectively. (NELA provisions have been included in the Senate’s NDAA and in the House’s Clean Economy and Jobs Innovation Act.) Last month, speaking at the 2020 Defense News Conference, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the final House and Senate conference report on the NDAA should be coming out soon after the November election.

HALEU investment is key part of TerraPower’s demo proposal

September 17, 2020, 2:58PMNuclear News

TerraPower announced on September 15 that it plans to work with Centrus Energy to establish commercial-scale production facilities for the high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) needed to fuel many advanced reactor designs.

The proposed investment in HALEU fuel fabrication is tied to a TerraPower-led submittal to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which was created to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs within five to seven years. TerraPower would like one of those designs to be Natrium, the 345-MWe sodium fast reactor that it has developed with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

Senate passes defense bill with advanced nuclear provisions

July 27, 2020, 7:07AMNuclear News

In an 86 to 14 vote, the Senate on July 23 passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, incorporating by amendment S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). The House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA, which supports $740 billion in funding for national defense, earlier in the week in a less bipartisan manner, 295 to 125. Members of both chambers will now begin negotiations to hammer out a final bill to send to the president—a process that could take months.

NRC accepts Centrus Energy’s application for HALEU license expansion

June 24, 2020, 3:06PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review Centrus Energy Corporation’s application to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium at its facility in Piketon, Ohio, the company announced on June 23. HALEU-based fuels will be required for most of the advanced reactor designs currently under development and may also be utilized in next-generation fuels for the existing fleet of reactors in the United States and around the world.

ARC signs on as potential Centrus HALEU customer

May 1, 2020, 1:32PMNuclear News

High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is the fuel of choice for many advanced reactor developers, including Advanced Reactor Concepts, which is designing the ARC-100, a sodium-cooled fast reactor. Developers face a potential supply problem, however: The United States has no clear path to build the commercial HALEU production facilities that would be needed to fuel a fleet of advanced reactors. A letter of intent signed by ARC and Centrus Energy, announced on April 28, calls for cooperation on the deployment of a commercial supply of HALEU and could lead to a HALEU purchase agreement for ARC-100 deployments in the late 2020s.