Centrus Energy Corporation, located in Piketon, Ohio, has produced the nation’s first 20 kilograms of High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel and ahead of schedule. HALEU fuel is uranium enriched so that the concentration of the fissile isotope uranium-235 is between 5% and 20% of the mass of uranium. Most of the current nuclear power plants use fuel that is less than 5% enriched, but HALEU fuel is needed for many advanced reactor technologies.
The Piketon Centrus plant is only facility in the U.S. licensed to enrich uranium up to 19.75% and it is the first domestic plant to start enrichment production since the 1950s. This production meets a key milestone in the U.S. Department of Energy’s HALEU Demonstration Project to stand up and operate 16 advanced centrifuges at the Centrus facility.
“This critical milestone is essential to meeting the Department’s near-term HALEU needs, while laying the groundwork for the full restoration of America’s lost domestic uranium enrichment capacity,” said Centrus President and CEO Daniel B. Poneman. “We are committed to working with the Department and industry to build a public-private partnership so that we can scale up production in the coming years to meet the full range of commercial and national security requirements for enriched uranium.”
“Meeting this first production mark is very exciting for everyone involved in the Piketon demonstration project,” said Jon Carmack, DOE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Supply Chain. “Centrus reached this accomplishment ahead of schedule and has proven the domestic capability to produce HALEU for the next generation of nuclear reactors.”
Centrus is expected to boost its annual production of HALEU material to 900 kilograms in 2024 under the contract, with options to produce more in the future.
The HALEU will be used to help fuel the initial cores of two demonstration reactors awarded under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and support fuel qualification and the testing of new reactor designs.