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GE Achieves Nuclear Milestone

Energy company GE Vernova is a step closer to producing nuclear fuel, POWER Magazine reports.

What’s going on: “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission … has granted [GE Vernova’s nuclear fuel business,] Global Nuclear Fuel … its first-ever authorization to produce nuclear fuel with uranium-235 (U-235) enrichments up to 8% for commercial power generation.”

  • The company’s site in Wilmington, North Carolina, is the first commercial facility in the U.S. to obtain a license to make the special nuclear fuel, also known as low enriched uranium plus, or LEU+.
  • The approval follows a certificate of compliance issued last year by the NRC allowing the company “to ship nuclear bundles of up to 8%” using its RAJ-II shipping container, which is specially designed to move boiling water reactor fuel assemblies.

Why it’s important: The news is a significant milestone for the nuclear energy industry.

  • “Higher enrichment fuels are anticipated to improve nuclear fuel cycle economics, including through power uprates for existing boiling water reactors and also for the next generation of reactor technology, including advanced and small modular reactors,” GNF said, according to the article.
  • The nuclear sector has traditionally used LEU, uranium enriched up to 5% with uranium-235, the main fissile isotope that creates energy during a reaction. LEU+, with a range of between 5% and 10% enrichment, is much more efficient and is critical to powering advanced nuclear technologies, “including gas-cooled, liquid metal, or molten salt designs.”

What’s next: “Looking ahead, GNF plans to expand its advanced fuel manufacturing capabilities by potentially building out a supply chain for advanced reactors.”

The NAM says: “Nuclear energy is still the largest single source of carbon-free energy in the U.S.,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris.

  • “Nuclear energy is vital to our energy security and any decarbonization efforts. The U.S. must maintain our technological advantage on next-generation nuclear capabilities, and manufacturers will continue to lead the way on innovation to ensure a steady supply of clean, reliable and affordable energy.”
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