The Department of Energy is seeking the public’s response to a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that would pave the way for fuel development for reactors that would use high-assay, low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel, although those reactors have yet to be built. The proposed site of the project, for which the U.S. Senate has approved $15 million in funding, would be the Idaho National Laboratories, site of the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) reactor, which stopped operating in 1994, according to the World Nuclear Association.
The DOE is taking public comment on the DEIS through Nov. 30.
Used fuel from EBR-II could be processed to create HALEU fuel, which would be needed to fully develop either Advanced Reactor Concept’s ARC-100 integral fast reactor or GE-Hitachi’s PRSIM sodium-cooled fast reactor. Both of these are currently being developed as small modular reactor designs.
Currently, there are no reactors in the United States that require HALEU fuel. However, used fuel from EBR-II is currently reprocessed at the INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex, and that fuel is rated between 5 percent and 20 percent uranium-235. That cache of used fuel is currently in storage at the Idaho site.
"There are several US companies pursuing advanced reactor designs that would use fuel enriched with higher levels of uranium-235, and need a source so they can conduct the research and development needed to bring these new technologies to market," the World Nuclear News quoted DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Technology Research and Development John Herczeg as saying. "Being able to provide a source of this fuel would support this research and development and aligns with the Office of Nuclear Energy's mission to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of meeting the nation's energy, environmental and national security needs."
EBR-II provided power and heat at the Idaho National Laboratories from 1964 to 1994.
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