Fuel


Framatome receives NRC approval for transport of LEU+ fuel assemblies

February 23, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
NRC-approved Framatome shipping container. (Photo: Framatome)

Framatome announced on February 22 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a license amendment that would allow Framatome’s shipping containers to transport, in the United States, fresh nuclear fuel assemblies containing uranium enriched up to 8 percent uranium-235.

Light water reactor fuel with higher enrichments and burnup capabilities than currently used under low-enriched uranium regulation could improve electricity generation and fuel utilization, possibly improving plant economics and providing more flexible reactor performance through extended operating cycles and more efficient core configurations.

Nuclear fuel: The foundation of nuclear power

February 22, 2022, 3:04PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Stephen P. Nesbit
president@ans.org

Commercial nuclear power plant fuel is amazing stuff. Light water reactor fuel assemblies operate in an unforgiving environment—high pressure, high temperature, high neutron flux, steep temperature gradients, challenging chemistry, and hydraulic loads and flow anomalies, among other things. They do it for 18 or 24 months at a time, and by the end of their useful life, most of the original uranium-­235 has been used up through violent (on a microscopic scale) fissions, releasing emissions-­free energy to power homes, businesses, and factories.

Even after a fuel assembly’s energy production days are over, we expect it to maintain its integrity for decades, or even centuries, during storage, transportation, and, ultimately, disposal. To borrow from the old Timex watch slogan, nuclear fuel takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and that fact makes today’s nuclear power plants feasible.

ANS to DOE: HALEU availability program needed ASAP

February 18, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The American Nuclear Society is urging the Department of Energy to accelerate the development of an availability program for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU).

In a letter sent to the DOE earlier this week, ANS President Steven Nesbit and Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy state that HALEU availability is critical to the continued development of advanced nuclear technologies.

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.

Q&A with Monica Regalbuto: Shaping a sustainable HALEU economy

February 11, 2022, 2:31PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Regalbuto

High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is the power-dense feedstock of choice for a slew of advanced reactor designs. There’s just one problem: It isn’t available . . . yet. Downblending high-­enriched uranium owned by the Department of Energy to between 5 and 19.75 percent fissile U-235 is a stopgap measure at best, and no U.S. facility can yet produce commercial quantities of uranium above the 5 percent U-235 limit for low-enriched uranium.

The problem is one not of technology, but of economics: Enrichment companies want to see clear market signals that advanced reactors will be deployed in quantity, leading to long-term purchase agreements that will justify investments made today.

ANS Fellow Monica Regalbuto is director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Strategy at Idaho National Laboratory, tasked with leveraging her more than 30 years of fuel cycle experience to ensure an adequate domestic supply of HALEU. She was invited to speak about her work during the opening plenary session of the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting.

Advanced reactor fuel cycle needs for a sustainable nuclear future

February 10, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear NewsChristina J. Leggett

Christina J. Leggett

I am so excited to be working in the nuclear industry right now! The U.S. nuclear industry includes dozens of advanced reactor companies that offer a variety of reactor designs, such as molten salt; sodium-cooled; and high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors. These reactors range in size from a few MWe for remote or mobile applications, to a few hundred MWe that could enable modular scale-up, to nearly 1 GWe, which is similar to existing light water reactors. These novel designs boast additional applications beyond traditional electricity generation, such as desalination to produce clean drinking water, district heating, hydrogen production, and process heat for industrial and chemical processes, opening up new possibilities to decarbonize industrial sectors and provide valuable resources to diverse stakeholders. The smaller footprint of microreactors and small modular reactors could also open new locations to reactor siting, further expanding advanced reactors’ market potential. Because of these possibilities, interest in advanced reactors comes from a variety of potential customers, including local communities, NASA, and the Department of Defense.

The need for a metallic nuclear fuels qualification plan

February 4, 2022, 3:13PMNuclear NewsHank Hogan, Steven Hayes, Nicolas Woolstenhulme, and Colby Jensen

Positioning nuclear power to combat climate change requires the rollout of advanced reactors to replace carbon-­emitting power generation. That necessity, and its urgency, is reflected in recent budget proposals for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Part of that proposed funding focuses on deploying new fuel technologies.

Metallic fuels, which are alloys of fissionable material, offer several advantages, including more fuel-­efficient reactors with a double or greater fuel burnup than the oxide fuels found in light water reactors. Fuel fabrication is also more cost-­effective with metallic fuels than with oxide fuels. Furthermore, much of the research and development effort needed to qualify these metallic fuels has been done.

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.

Westinghouse to invest $131 million in S.C. fuel fabrication facility

December 20, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Westinghouse Electric Company plans to expand operations at its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF), located in Hopkins, S.C., with an investment of $131 million over the next five years. The project, announced on December 15 by South Carolina governor Henry McMaster’s office, includes upgrades to equipment and procedures, as well as enhancements to the CFFF’s pollution prevention systems and controls. The investment will expand automation and digitalization at the facility, improving inspection capabilities and product quality, according to the governor's office. Westinghouse expects to complete the project by January 2026.

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.

Nuclear fuel considerations in the development of advanced reactors

December 8, 2021, 12:04PMNuclear NewsGary Mignogna

Mignogna

The world faces an urgent need to decarbonize and expand clean energy systems. Earlier this year, the United States announced goals to achieve a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions across the entire economy by 2050. Today, nuclear energy plants provide more than 50 percent of the United States’ carbon-free energy. Existing plants, along with the advanced technologies currently being developed and demonstrated, are crucial to the United States’ and the world’s clean energy future.

Technologies such as advanced non-light water reactors, which have higher operating temperatures than today’s light water reactors, will be vital to meeting economy-wide decarbonization goals. For example, process heat applications and chemical and synthetic fuel production require higher temperatures and currently rely on fossil fuels. Advanced reactors are the only carbon-free technologies that can provide the high temperatures these processes need.

Oklo signs on as future customer for Centrus-produced HALEU

November 18, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s conception of Oklo’s Aurora powerhouse. (Image: Gensler)

Oklo plans to fuel its demonstration microreactor with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). To secure a source of HALEU for its nth-of-a-kind microreactor, Oklo has signed a nonbinding letter of intent with Centrus Energy to cooperate on the deployment of a HALEU production facility.

X-energy has work ahead in quest to build TRISO-X fuel facility, Xe-100 reactor

November 10, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
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.

First complete accident tolerant fuel assembly in operation at Calvert Cliffs

November 9, 2021, 3:32PMNuclear News
Framatome’s PROtect accident tolerant fuel assembly undergoes final inspection before delivery to Exelon’s Calvert Cliffs-2 in Lusby, Md.

The nuclear industry’s first 100 percent accident tolerant fuel assembly is in operation at Exelon Generation’s Calvert Cliffs plant, the Department of Energy announced yesterday. The advanced fuel will operate in the reactor for the next four to six years and will be routinely inspected to monitor its performance, the DOE said.

Located in Lusby, Md., Calvert Cliffs houses two pressurized water reactors. Unit 1 is rated at 907 Mwe, and Unit 2 at 881 Mwe.

Germany: Coal tops wind energy in 2021, but there’s more to the story

September 23, 2021, 7:02AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Coal-fired plants fed the most power to Germany's electricity grid in the first half of 2021, while wind power dropped to its lowest level since 2018. As a September 13 article published on the German news site DW.com explained, the situation was blamed in part on a wind energy shortfall that is causing power price spikes across Europe.

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.

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.