BWXT wins uranium processing and HALEU fuel contracts

11 March 2021

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded BWXT Nuclear Operations Group (BWXT NOG) two contracts worth a total of USD35 million. The first is for the recovery and conversion of uranium, while the second is for the completion of a new research reactor fuel line at its Lynchburg, Virginia facility.

BWXT's Lynchburg manufacturing facility is home to its speciality fuels manufacturing group (Image: BWXT)

The DOE's US Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has awarded BWXT NOG - a subsidiary of BWX Technologies (BWXT) - a USD17.4 million contract for the recovery of uranium from scrap, waste and unused product to be converted into fuel to feed future products under the programme. This work began at BWXT's facility in Lynchburg in January this year and is expected to be completed by June 2022. An additional option is expected to be awarded later this year.

BWXT owns the only two Category 1 nuclear facilities licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to store and process highly enriched uranium (HEU).

The DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has awarded a USD17.9 million contract to BWXT NOG to complete the second phase of the construction of a new research reactor fuel line. The contract funds the repurposing of a portion of the Lynchburg uranium processing facility to be used to manufacture uranium-molybdenum alloy High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (U-Mo HALEU) fuel.

This contract follows the award of an initial USD3.6 million contract by the NNSA in February 2020. That contract was to fund engineering work for the decommissioning and refurbishment of parts of BWXT's Lynchburg facility in preparation for U-Mo HALEU fabrication at the site.

BWXT anticipates that U-Mo HALEU fuel production could begin at Lynchburg by 2024.

BWXT has been working independently and together with NNSA since 2006 to develop U-Mo HALEU research reactor fuel that is designed to retain reactor performance whilst lowering the proliferation risk associated with HEU. This work was done in support of NNSA's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and its research reactor conversion programme, which encourages the conversion of domestic and international civilian research reactors and medical isotope production facilities to the use of non-weapons grade materials.

BWXT has been supplying fuel elements and assemblies for research and test reactors for decades and is the only North American supplier of fuel-bearing components for reactors at national laboratories, colleges and universities.

"These awards showcase BWXT's unique capabilities in processing and manufacturing nuclear fuels, our long history fueling research reactors and our dedication to enhancing global security," said BWXT NOG President Joel Duling.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News