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U.S. Seeks Better Nuclear-Reactor Fuel Supplies

Better nuclear-fuel supplies will be needed if the U.S. is to develop advanced nuclear reactors to fight climate change and boost national security, according to the Associated Press.

Open to ideas: “The U.S. Department of Energy sent out a request to companies that might be interested in participating to send ideas concerning its plans to establish a program to ensure the availability of high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU. Information received will be used to prepare a report for Congress. It could also lead to the Energy Department taking the next step and asking companies to submit more detailed plans on how they might supply the nuclear fuel.”

  • The NAM this week urged the U.S. Department of Energy to focus on the development of a nuclear supply chain to power reactors.
  • “Reliable sources of fuel will be needed to promote the sustainable development and commercial deployment of advanced nuclear reactors,” said NAM Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy Rachel Jones. “Positive steps have been taken, including the ongoing HALEU enrichment demonstration program in Piketon, Ohio, and the pending establishment of the new HALEU Availability program, as reflected in the administration’s current budget request. However … [r]apidly spooling up the new HALEU Availability program in Fiscal Year 2022 and seeking strong funding levels in your Fiscal Year 2023 budget request are essential.”

Infrastructure bill inclusion: The infrastructure bill signed by President Biden last month comprises $2.5 billion for the Department of Energy’s two advanced reactor demonstration projects, which require HALEU.

  • “About 20% of the nation’s energy comes from nuclear power produced at just under 100 nuclear power plants. Current reactor fuel, the Energy Department said, uses uranium enriched up to 5%. Advanced reactors use HALEU enriched between 5% and 20%, which is required to produce more power in advanced reactors that are smaller than traditional nuclear power reactors.”

The NAM says: “As the largest source of zero-carbon power in the U.S., nuclear provides manufacturers with a vital source of electricity, ensuring reliable and affordable clean energy,” said Jones. “Demand for electricity in the U.S. continues to grow, so strengthening the nuclear we have and building out more is the right move.”

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