The U.S. Department of Energy is pursuing several pathways to secure a domestic supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)—an important material needed to develop and deploy advanced reactors. The Energy Act of 2020 directed the establishment of the HALEU Availability Program to ensure access to HALEU for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use.
The program supports the nation’s climate goals, prioritizes environmental justice, and is responsive to President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative to bring resources to communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards.
How it Works
The HALEU Availability Program will acquire HALEU through purchase agreements with domestic industry partners and produce limited initial amounts of material from DOE-owned assets.
The HALEU Availability Program is intended to spur demand for additional HALEU production and private investment in the nation’s nuclear fuel supply infrastructure—ultimately removing the federal government’s initial role as a supplier.
Why it’s Needed
Most advanced reactor designs require HALEU to achieve smaller designs, longer operating cycles, and increased efficiencies over current technologies.
HALEU is not currently available from domestic suppliers, and gaps in supply could delay the deployment of advanced reactors in a timeframe that supports the nation’s net-zero emissions targets by 2050.
HALEU Availability Program Activities
The Inflation Reduction Act invests $700 million to support the development of a domestic supply chain for HALEU through several HALEU Availability Program activities. The funding is available through September 30, 2026.
Current program activities include:
Additional elements carried out through the HALEU Availability Program include developing criticality benchmark data, additional research, and financial assistance to commercial entities to support the broader HALEU supply chain, including the transportation of various HALEU material forms.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is HALEU?
High-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, is uranium enriched greater than 5 and less than 20 weight percent of the uranium-235 isotope, which is the main fissile isotope that produces energy during a chain reaction.
How is HALEU made?
In the U.S., HALEU is made in limited quantities by blending down high-enriched uranium (greater than or equal to 20% U-235) with natural uranium or low-enriched uranium. HALEU can also be created using a process called enrichment, which physically separates and concentrates the fissile isotope U-235 in gaseous form (uranium hexafluoride) to produce enriched uranium capable of sustaining a nuclear chain reaction in a commercial nuclear power reactor.
Why is HALEU needed?
Most of the advanced reactors under development in the U.S. require HALEU fuel to achieve smaller designs, longer operating cycles, and increased efficiencies compared with current technologies. However, HALEU is not currently available from domestic suppliers. A lack of this commercial supply chain could significantly impact the development and deployment of U.S. advanced reactors and increase the risk and uncertainty for private investment in the production of HALEU.
Why can’t HALEU be made now?
Currently, commercial nuclear fuel suppliers can’t produce HALEU largely due to market uncertainties and infrastructure gaps. This poses a concern for the development, demonstration, and deployment of many advanced nuclear technologies.
Does the current fleet of nuclear reactors use HALEU?
The existing fleet of U.S. nuclear reactors require low-enriched uranium (LEU) or uranium fuel that is enriched to no more than 5 weight percent of uranium-235. Most advanced reactors require HALEU to achieve smaller designs that get more power per unit of volume.
Why do advanced reactors need higher enriched uranium than the current fleet of reactors?
HALEU is required by most U.S. advanced reactors to achieve smaller designs, longer operating cycles, and increased efficiencies over current technologies.
How much HALEU will be needed to deploy advanced reactors?
DOE projects that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed by 2030 with additional amounts required each year thereafter to deploy a new fleet of advanced reactors in a timeframe that supports the Administration’s 2050 net-zero emissions target. Additional fidelity will be gathered through the surveys required by the Energy Act of 2020 and interactions with the members of the HALEU Consortium.
Where are U.S. companies currently getting HALEU material from?
DOE is providing limited amounts of HALEU to support the Department’s immediate RD&D needs to demonstrate advanced reactors.
What is DOE doing to help provide HALEU for advanced nuclear reactors developers?
DOE is pursuing multiple pathways to access HALEU. This includes the recycling of spent nuclear fuel from government-owned research reactors to recover highly enriched uranium (greater than or equal to 20% U-235) that can be down blended to make HALEU fuel.
DOE is also on track to demonstrate domestic production at its enrichment facility in Piketon, OH. The demonstration is expected to produce 20 kilograms of HALEU material by the end of 2023, with a 900 kilogram/year production rate starting in 2024 to address near-term HALEU needs for fuel qualification testing and DOE-supported advanced reactor demonstration projects.
What is the federal HALEU Availability Program?
The Energy Act of 2020 charges the Secretary of Energy with establishing and carrying out a program to support the development of HALEU for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use. To achieve this goal, DOE established the HALEU Availability Program. The HALEU Availability Program includes several elements, such as establishing a HALEU consortium, acquiring or providing HALEU from DOE stockpiles, or as is the focus of the current proposed action, using enrichment technology to supply HALEU for commercial use or demonstration projects.
What is the purpose of the two different RFPs?
The HALEU enrichment/acquisition RFP is focused on mining/milling, conversion, enrichment, and storage activities. Whereas the second RFP is for HALEU deconversion from uranium hexafluoride gas to metal or oxide forms, as well as transport to deconversion site(s), if needed, and storage.
Why are there two RFPs?
DOE issued a request for information (RFI) in 2022, which resulted in a broad range of perspectives that reflected a limited consensus on investment in capacity versus demand via offtake commitment. Later in 2022, DOE held an industry day to help further design and determine the best approach. In response to the RFI, Industry Day feedback, and to maximize supply chain diversity, DOE decided to split the work scope into two RFPs.
How is transportation being factored into these draft RFPs and the broader HALEU Availability Program?
The scope of the enrichment RFP includes the transportation of feed materials that supply the enrichment facility. The scope of the deconversion RFP transports enriched uranium hexafluoride gas to the deconversion facility.
What steps is DOE taking to gather tribal input on how Tribes could be involved in transportation or establishing the transportation program?
Tribal input will be solicited through the draft RFP comment process, as part of the environmental considerations summary (Ref Attachment L-C of the enrichment RFP) and via the Department’s analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Additional interactions will occur between the industry teams proposing in response to the RFPs as part of the interactions with the stakeholder community as part of the Community Benefits Plan development.
Will Centrus Energy be allowed to apply to the RFPs since it already has a contract with DOE?
The existing contract does not restrict Centrus or their subsidiaries from applying under future solicitations. The RFPs will be open to all eligible entities.
If Centrus Energy holds a contract to produce HALEU, why can’t it provide the HALEU needed?
The HALEU enrichment demonstration's purpose is to prove the technological maturity of a U.S. enrichment technology by starting up and operating 16 centrifuges. The capacity of this demonstration program is 900 kilograms per year, which isn’t sufficient for long-term HALEU requirements. However, its successful completion can pave the way for additional private sector investment and capacity building.
What steps is DOE taking to fulfill its requirement to consult with Federally recognized Tribes and more broadly, to facilitate Tribal participation, in the process?
The federal government has a responsibility to recognize and fulfill its legal obligations to identify, protect, and conserve Tribal trust and treaty resources, carry out its Trust relationship with Federally recognized Tribes, and to consult on a government-to-government basis in recognition of the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the Federal Government and federally recognized Tribes. Consistent with Biden Administration guidance and agency policy, DOE will open dialogue with Federally recognized Tribes about the proposed action through letters and notifications directly to Tribes and stands ready to engage in Nation-to-Nation consultation about the proposed action as requested. DOE will follow its American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Government Policy and implementation guidance.
Will a future facility siting process ensure tribal participation and government-to-government consultation? How will DOE ensure Tribes can participate in the process?
DOE’s comprehensive NEPA analysis will examine potential impacts of the proposed action to facilitate the domestic commercialization of HALEU production and acquire HALEU for commercial use or demonstration projects. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will conduct site specific NEPA analysis related to facilities which they will license and regulate, including enrichment and deconversion facilities. Formal Tribal consultation, as well as Tribal engagement, will be an integral part of the process.
What actions is DOE taking to incorporate tenets of the Justice40 initiative into the HALEU program?
The objectives section of both draft RFPs highlight the Administration’s environmental justice initiatives including the meaningful engagement with stakeholder communities, full compliance with labor laws and preventing adverse human health, environmental, social, economic and other impacts to communities and other demographics that could potentially be impacted by HALEU production.