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The Ukraine war is bad for USA’s nuclear industry- hard to get the Highly Enriched Uranium needed from Russia for Advanced Nuclear Reactors


How Russia’s invasion is affecting U.S. nuclear
, EE News, By Hannah Northey | 03/14/2022   

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is raising questions about the cost and flow of fuel to existing and yet-to-be commercialized advanced U.S. reactors touted by advocates as a tool for tackling climate change.

President Biden didn’t target the nuclear sector when he issued an executive order this month to block imports of Russian crude and natural gas.

But as the war drags on for a third week, the White House is consulting with the nuclear sector about the potential impact of imposing sanctions on Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company, according to Bloomberg, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

The White House did not immediately confirm talks with the nuclear industry.

Sanctions on Rosatom, sources told E&E News, could pose long-term challenges for the United States’ fleet of more than 90 reactors running on low-enriched uranium.

While the existing plants have enough fuel for the next six to eight months and possibly longer, experts say sanctions on Russian imports could raise the global cost of low-enriched uranium and rile U.S. plants sensitive to cost swings. Russia supplies 20 percent of the low-enriched uranium needed to run American nuclear plants, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Others say the larger concern may sit with advanced reactor demonstrations expected to come online around 2028 that will require high-assay, low-enriched uranium, or HALEU. That’s because Russia is the only viable commercial supplier globally and other firms are years away from readily providing such fuel, they say.

Groups like Beyond Nuclear have said the Russian invasion highlights the liability of nuclear power and spent fuel, arguing the fuel source cannot be a climate solution.

Frank von Hippel, a physicist and professor emeritus at Princeton University, said the bigger challenge for nuclear power is that the technology is not economically competitive…………..

Russia represents— about 20 percent in 2020 — of the enriched uranium making its way to American reactors. Concerns about what steps the Biden administration would take regarding uranium began surfacing publicly when Reuters, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported earlier this month that NEI urged the White House to keep uranium sales exempt from sanctions (Energywire, March 3)…………………

Focus on advanced reactors

Possible sanctions on Russia could affect the current timeline for the deployment of advanced reactors in the U.S., said Jeff Merrifield, who sat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and is now a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP law firm partner.

Merrifield agreed Russia is the most readily available short-term option for providing fuel for advanced reactors that will need HALEU, uranium that’s enriched between 5 percent and 20 percent — higher rates that allow smaller designs to get more power for their size.

The first projects that would need a steady source of HALEU could be the Energy Department’s advanced reactor demonstration program, including a TerraPower plant in Wyoming and an X-energy project in Washington state. Those plants are expected to come online around 2028.

To be sure, sources of HALEU outside Russia are emerging — but industry and regulatory sources E&E News spoke with said it’s a matter of demand and timing as advanced reactors come online……………  https://www.eenews.net/articles/how-russias-invasion-is-affecting-u-s-nuclear/

March 15, 2022 - Posted by | business and costs, technology, Uranium, USA

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