A Framatome operator fabricates U-Mo foils at CERCA. (Photo: Framatome)
Framatome is prepared to manufacture a novel molybdenum-uranium (U-Mo) fuel to extend the life and safe operation of the Forschungsreaktor München II (FRM II) research reactor in Germany. A new fuel supply—one that uses uranium enriched to less than 20 percent U-235—means the FRM II can continue to supply neutrons to industry and the scientific community. The fuel is “Europe’s low-enriched fuel with the highest density ever realized for research reactor operations,” according to Framatome’s April 27 announcement.
Various officials (back row) look on at the fuel supply contract signing in Sofia, Bulgaria. Front row, from left: Angie Darkey, Uranium Asset Management’s managing director; Boris Schucht, Urenco CEO; Tim Gitzel, Cameco president and CEO; and Aziz Dag, Westinghouse senior vice president of global BWR & VVER fuel business.
Canada’s Cameco and U.K.-based Urenco last week jointly announced the signing of agreements to become part of a Westinghouse-led fuel supply chain for Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear power plant. (Also included in the partnership is Uranium Asset Management.)
The ministers representing their respective nations as the statement on civil nuclear fuel cooperation was announced were (from left) Jonathan Wilkinson, minister of natural resources of Canada; Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister of economy, trade, and industry; Jennifer Granholm, U.S. energy secretary; Grant Shapps, U.K. energy security secretary; and Agnes Pannier-Runacher, French minister for energy transition.
A civil nuclear fuel security agreement between the five nuclear leaders of the G7—announced on April 16 on the sidelines of the G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment in Sapporo, Japan—establishes cooperation between Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States to flatten Russia’s influence in the global nuclear fuel supply chain.
This chart from the EIA shows sources of uranium for U.S. nuclear power plants, 1950-2021. In 2020, according to the chart, 39.60 million pounds of uranium oxide was imported for the domestic nuclear power plant fleet. (Credit: Energy Information Agency)
The naturalist John Muir is widely quoted as saying, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” While he was speaking of ecology, he might as well have been talking about nuclear fuel.
At the moment, by most accounts, nuclear fuel is in crisis for a lot of reasons that weave together like a Gordian knot. Today, despite decades of assertions from nuclear energy supporters that the supply of uranium is secure and will last much longer than fossil fuels, the West is in a blind alley. We find ourselves in conflict with Russia with ominous implications for uranium, for which Russia holds about a 14 percent share of the global market, and for two processes that prepare uranium for fabrication into reactor fuel: conversion (for which Russia has a 27 percent share) and enrichment (a 39 percent share).
From left: David Piccini, Ontario’s minister of environment, conservation, and parks; Mike Rencheck, president and CEO, Bruce Power; Tim Gitzel, president and CEO, Cameco; and Todd Smith, Ontario’s minister of energy. (Photo: Bruce Power)
Canadian firms Cameco and Bruce Power have announced a 10-year extension of their long-term exclusive nuclear fuel supply arrangements, securing power generation from the eight-unit 6,507-MWe Bruce nuclear plant through 2040.
Bohdan Zronek, ČEZ board member and director of the firm’s nuclear energy division; Tarik Choho, president of Westinghouse’s nuclear fuel division; and Aziz Dag, senior vice president of BWR and VVER fuel for Westinghouse (seated, left to right) signed the agreement. Also present were David Benes, ČEZ Group CEO, and Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse CEO. (Photo: Westinghouse)
Westinghouse has signed an agreement with ČEZ, owner and operator of the Czech Republic’s nuclear power plants, to supply VVER-440 fuel assemblies to the Dukovany facility, the American firm announced March 29. Fuel deliveries will commence in 2024, replacing Russia’s TVEL fuel, with an anticipated term of seven years. One of the Czech Republic’s two nuclear power plants, Dukovany houses four Russian-supplied VVER-440/V213 reactors.
Mock-up of four-lobed helical fuel rods. (Photo: Lightbridge)
Lightbridge Corporation, which is continuing to work closely with national laboratories on the manufacture and testing of its metallic fuel rod designs for light water reactors, just announced the results of an investigation on the casting process for molten uranium and zirconium with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory under the Department of Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program.
A view of the completed demo cascade. (Photo: Centrus)
Centrus Energy announced February 9 that it has finished assembling a cascade of uranium enrichment centrifuges and most of the associated support systems ahead of its contracted demonstration of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) production by the end of 2023. When the 16-machine cascade begins operating inside the Piketon, Ohio, American Centrifuge Plant, which has room for 11,520 machines, it will be the first new U.S.-technology based enrichment plant to begin production in 70 years.
A rendering of the TRISO-X fuel fabrication facility. (Image: DOE)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently presented its proposed 30-month licensing review timeline of TRISO-X’s planned fuel fabrication facility at the project’s first-ever public meeting in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
TRISO-X, a subsidiary of X-energy, has requested a 40-year license to possess and use special nuclear material to manufacture advanced fuel. The facility would be the first-ever commercial-scale fuel fabrication plant focused on using high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU).
Artist’s rendering of the proposed TRISO-X World Headquarters and Commercial Fuel Facility at the Horizon Center Industrial Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Image: X-energy)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted an application from X-energy's fuel subsidiary, TRISO-X LLC, for a proposed TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., X-energy announced last week. A 30-month review schedule has been developed by the NRC that would be completed by June 2025, assuming TRISO-X provides sufficient responses to expected requests for additional information (RAIs) within 30 to 60 days of their issuance. On December 16, the NRC announced that it would seek public input on the scope of its environmental review and environmental impact statement for the application and published a notice in the Federal Register.
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.
The TRIGA Mark II nuclear research reactor. (Photo: University of Texas)
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has conducted a special inspection at the University of Texas’s TRIGA Mark II nuclear research reactor in Austin to evaluate the use of improper fuel. The inspection was ordered following a notification from the University of Texas—Austin to the NRC that the research reactor had been operating for several months with two fuel elements that were not licensed for the reactor.
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.