The US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has awarded an initial USD3.6 million contract to BWXT Nuclear Operations Group as the manufacturer of a uranium-molybdenum alloy high assay low-enriched uranium (U-Mo HALEU) fuel to facilitate the conversion of US research reactors that currently use high-enriched uranium (HEU).BWXT's Lynchburg manufacturing facility is home to the company’s speciality fuels manufacturing group (Image: BWXT)
The contract awarded to BWXT Nuclear Operations Group - a subsidiary of BWX Technologies (BWXT) - will fund engineering work for the decommissioning and refurbishment of parts of BWXT's facility in Lynchburg, Virginia, in preparation for U-Mo HALEU fabrication at the site. Assuming the receipt of further awards, fuel production could begin by 2024, BWXT said.
BWXT has been working independently and together with NNSA since 2006 to develop U-Mo HALEU research reactor fuel that is designed to retain reactor performance whilst lowering the proliferation risk associated with HEU. This work was done in support of NNSA's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and its research reactor conversion programme, which encourages the conversion of domestic and international civilian research reactors and medical isotope production facilities to the use of non-weapons grade materials, the company said.
BWXT is the only North American supplier of fuel-bearing components for reactors at US national laboratories, colleges and universities. The integration of U-Mo HALEU fuel alloy processing at the same facility where these components are produced will have significant benefits for quality, cost and logistics, it said.
The US Administration's fiscal 2021 budget request, unveiled on 10 February by President Donald Trump, includes USD2 billion for Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation programmes, including the pursuit of opportunities to minimise and, where possible, eliminate weapons-usable nuclear material around the world.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News