The H Canyon chemical separations facility at the Savannah River Site.
The H Canyon chemical separations facility at the Savannah River Site.

AIKEN, S.C. - The H Canyon chemical separations facility at Savannah River Site (SRS) is preparing to recycle used highly enriched uranium (HEU) and downblend it to provide much-needed fuel for U.S. advanced nuclear reactors.

The downblended fuel, known as high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), is desirable for use in nuclear power reactor designs because it allows for smaller designs, longer life cores, increased fuel efficiency and less waste.

“The projected demand for HALEU far exceeds the current supply,” said HALEU Program Manager Jeff Hasty with EM contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions. “Because of H Canyon’s most recent mission of blending HEU into LEU for commercial fuel reactors, H Canyon has stored HEU solutions available for use.”

Watch this video to learn more about high-assay low-enriched uranium.

Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) completed a series of analyses to show downblending of HEU from H Canyon liquid solutions could meet specifications needed for the advanced reactors. Those analyses helped SRS in initiating the planned HALEU project in H Canyon.

“SRNL plays a major role in the research of the nuclear fuel cycle research and development and is always excited to see our efforts applied in real world applications,” said SRNL Environmental and Legacy Management Deputy Associate Laboratory Director Bill Bates.

H Canyon has begun preparing for the pending mission, which will include equipment repair, training, procedure revisions and an environmental impact analysis. SRNL is also supporting the effort by completing a detailed set of sample analyses to ensure the HALEU meets reactor material specifications and to certify shipping containers for material transport. Downblending is expected to begin in 2025.

“This approval is a win-win,” said Hasty. “H Canyon has a useful path for the stored HEU, and at the same time, HALEU availability is increased for the emerging advanced reactors.”