Centrus receives licence for HALEU production

15 June 2021

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved a licence amendment that will allow Centrus Energy Corp to produce high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) at its Piketon enrichment facility. Centrus expects to begin demonstrating HALEU production at the facility in Ohio early next year.

The American Centrifuge Plant at Piketon (Image: Centrus)

HALEU fuel is enriched to between 5% and 20% uranium-235 and will be required by many advanced reactor designs that are under development, but it is not yet commercially available in the USA. Developers of nine of the 10 advanced reactor designs selected for funding under the Department of Energy's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, including two demonstration reactors that are to be built within the next seven years, are expected to use HALEU-based fuels.

American Centrifuge Operating (ACO), a subsidiary of Centrus, requested a licence amendment review from the NRC to demonstrate production of HALEU containing up to 20% U-235 using a cascade of 16 AC100M centrifuges it is constructing at the American Centrifuge Plant site at Piketon. The amendment will allow ACO to produce up to 600 kg of HALEU product at an enrichment up to 20% in the form of UF6 for the DOE. No other facility in the USA is currently licensed to enrich uranium to 20%.

"This approval is a major milestone in our contract with the Department of Energy," Centrus President and CEO Daniel Poneman said.

Centrus is building the Piketon cascade to demonstrate the production of HALEU under a three-year, USD115 million cost-shared contract signed in 2019 with the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy. The NRC licence was granted for the period of the DOE contract, Centrus said, but if sufficient funding is provided to continue operation, the licence can be amended to extend the term.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News