American Centrifuge Operating (ACO), a subsidiary of Centrus Energy Corp, is moving closer to operating an advanced centrifuge cascade in Piketon, OH to produce the nation’s first amount of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)—a crucial material needed to develop and deploy advanced reactors in the United States.
The demonstration project is on track to produce 20 kilograms of HALEU before the end of the year.
Demonstrating Domestic HALEU Production
ACO successfully completed operational readiness reviews with the NRC and is now authorized to enrich limited quantities of uranium hexafluoride gas into HALEU.
The work builds on a 3-year project with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to manufacture and assemble 16 advanced centrifuges into an enrichment cascade.
ACO received a competitively awarded follow-on contract last November to start up and operate the cascade.
The company will demonstrate the production of 20 kilograms of HALEU before the end the year. The company will then produce 900 kilograms of HALEU the following year, with additional options to produce more HALEU in future years pending congressional appropriations.
“This is a significant step in establishing commercial production of HALEU in the U.S.,” said Jon Carmack, DOE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Supply Chain. “It will not only help fuel the dozens of promising new reactor technologies currently under development but also support more than 100 local jobs in the Piketon area.”
The HALEU will be used to help fuel the initial cores of two demonstration reactors awarded under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and will also support fuel qualification and the testing of new reactor designs.
A Pressing Need for HALEU
HALEU is required by many advanced reactor designs to achieve smaller designs, longer operating cycles, and increased efficiencies over current technologies.
It is not available from domestic suppliers and gaps in the nation’s fuel cycle infrastructure could delay the deployment of advanced reactors in a timeframe that supports the nation’s target to reach a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.
The Piketon plant is currently the only facility in the U.S. licensed to enrich uranium up to HALEU levels of 20 percent.
ACO will now work toward completing the construction of an on-site HALEU storage area and wrap up final testing activities prior to operating the cascade.
The HALEU demonstration project is one of several pathways DOE is pursuing to produce HALEU through its HALEU Availability Program.