Maryland-based Centrus said Haleu fuels will be required for most of the advanced reactor designs under development and may also be used in next generation fuel designs for existing reactors in the US and around the world.
In 2019, Centrus signed a three-year contract with the US Department of Energy to deploy a cascade of its AC100M centrifuges to demonstrate production of Haleu fuel for advanced reactors.
Centrus said the $115m demonstration programme is on schedule and on budget, with the first set of outer casings for the centrifuges delivered to the company’s Piketon site in Ohio after production at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
The Piketon facility is already licensed to enrich uranium to a concentration of up to 10% of the uranium-235 isotope, making it the only US facility licensed for enrichment levels higher than 5%.
Existing reactors typically operate on low-enriched uranium (LEU), with the uranium-235 isotope concentration just below 5%.
Haleu fuel, which is not commercially available, has a uranium-235 isotope concentration of up to 20%, giving it several potential technical and economic advantages.
The higher concentration of uranium means that fuel assemblies and reactors can be smaller and reactors will need less frequent refuelling. Reactors can also achieve higher “burnup” rates, meaning a smaller volume of fuel will be required overall and less waste will be produced.
A recent report by the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, requested by president Donald Trump, called for funding Haleu research and development, and completion of the Haleu enrichment demonstration programme.