Centrus delivers HALEU; Rolls-Royce picks Westinghouse for SMR fuel

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Ground floor-side view of the HALEU cascade (Source: Centrus Energy)

Nuclear fuels and services provider Centrus Energy has made its first delivery of High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) from its facility in Piketon, Ohio, to the Department of Energy (DOE), the company said in a statement.

The delivery marks the completion of Phase One of its contract with the DOE by successfully demonstrating its HALEU production process.

Centrus will now move to Phase Two in which it aims to produce 900 kg of HALEU a year, subject to appropriations.

Piketon is the only Nuclear Regulator Commission-licensed HALEU facility in the United States and the first new U.S.-owned, U.S.-technology uranium enrichment plant to begin production since 1954, the company said.

Centrus was granted a $150 million cost-shared award by the DOE in 2022 to demonstrate the ability to produce HALEU.

Nine of out ten advanced reactor designs selected for funding under the U.S. government’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) will require advanced fuels such as HALEU and TRIstructural-ISOtropic (TRISO) particles, but there are no commercial suppliers of such fuels operating in the country.

The Piketon program is expected to demonstrate production of 20 kg of 19.75% enriched HALEU before the end of the year.  

Centrus, which says it could significantly and rapidly expand production with sufficient funding and offtake commitments, is starting production two months earlier than scheduled.

“We hope that this demonstration cascade will soon be joined by thousands of additional centrifuges right here in Piketon to produce the HALEU needed to fuel the next generation of advanced reactors, Low-Enriched-Uranium to sustain the existing fleet of reactors, and the enriched uranium needed to sustain our nuclear deterrent for generations to come,” said Centrus President and CEO Daniel Poneman.

“This is how the United States can recover its lost nuclear independence.”

Rolls-Royce picks Westinghouse for SMR fuel

Westinghouse Electric Company has reached an agreement with Rolls-Royce SMR to support the development and the design of the nuclear fuel for its Small Modular Reactor program, Westinghouse said in a statement.

Westinghouse supplies nuclear fuel worldwide for a number of different reactors, including pressurized water reactors (PWR), boiling water reactors (BWR), advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGR), and water-water energetic reactors (VVER).  

“This collaboration between Westinghouse and Rolls-Royce SMR will help drive the future of nuclear fuel deployment,” said Tarik Choho, Westinghouse President of Nuclear Fuel.

“Westinghouse is proud to bring its generations of experience designing and manufacturing fuel in the UK.”

Westinghouse acquisition cleared

The acquisition of U.S.-based nuclear power equipment maker Westinghouse Electric by uranium miner Cameco and Brookfield Renewable Partners has been approved by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CMA launched a merger inquiry into the proposed deal September 14, 2023.

The transaction was cleared November 3, 2023.

“The CMA has cleared the anticipated joint venture by Cameco Corporation and Brookfield Corporation to acquire Westinghouse Electric Company. The full text of the clearance decision will be published in due course,” it said.

Cameco said it anticipates the transaction to close on, or about, Nov 7, “subject to the satisfaction of all other customary closing conditions.”

Cameco plans to finance its share of the acquisition with a $600 million loan which will be drawn down at closing along with available cash, and it will not be using a $280 million bridge commitment secured concurrently with the acquisition agreement, the company said.

The deal was announced in October, 2022, when Cameco and Brookfield said they would acquire the nuclear equipment maker in a $7.9-billion deal including debt.

Cameco will own 49% of Westinghouse and Brookfield Renewable and its partners will own the rest.

Westinghouse was acquired out of bankruptcy in 2018 for $4.6 billion, including debt, from Toshiba Corp by Brookfield Business Partners.

ULC-Energy, Rolls-Royce, Topsoe to study hydrogen

Netherlands-based nuclear development and consultancy ULC-Energy, Rolls-Royce SMR and Danish energy company Topsoe have signed an agreement to jointly investigate the production of hydrogen using Topsoe’s Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) technology and electricity and heat from a Rolls-Royce SMR power plant, ULC-Energy said in a statement.

“Topsoe’s SOEC technology produces more hydrogen per total power input when compared to the alternatives of alkaline and PEM electrolysis,” says Jack H. Carstensen, Business Development Director at Topsoe.

“Additionally, when coupled with a heat-producing technology such as nuclear, SOEC allows for the lowest levelized hydrogen cost with the highest level of energy efficiency.”

Nuclear offers abundant electricity and process heat, both of which can be used to produce hydrogen without the emission of greenhouse gases and, depending on the size of the reactor, can be either cogeneration, providing electricity and hydrogen for the larger plants, or single purpose plants for smaller reactors. 

The joint investigation will include a valuation of the operational flexibility of the Rolls-Royce SMR/Topsoe SOEC combination within the future green energy market, ULC said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear