National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA, TVA Announce Interagency Agreement for Down-Blending Highly Enriched Uranium

August 23, 2018

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WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) intend to enter into an interagency agreement to down-blend highly enriched uranium (HEU) in support of national security missions.

Down-blending HEU to low-enriched uranium (LEU) promotes national security by enabling the production of tritium, a key component of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

“Without this down-blending campaign, we would need to accelerate the development and execution of a strategy to provide LEU fuel for tritium production by nearly a decade,” said Phil Calbos, NNSA’s Acting Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs.

This agreement follows a Secretarial Determination by U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry on August 21, 2018, that allows NNSA to continue transfers of enriched uranium from DOE’s inventories in support of national security.

NNSA must down-blend its unobligated HEU inventory to provide LEU for defense missions because there is no source of unobligated enriched uranium available through the open market today.

Unobligated HEU is material that is free from peaceful use restrictions.

The down-blending campaign is part of NNSA’s strategy to provide a reliable and economical source of unobligated enriched uranium that will run from 2019 through 2025 with TVA providing material management and storage logistics through 2040. 

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Visit www.nnsa.energy.gov for more information.