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American companies might make fuel for small nuclear reactors, except that there seems to be no market for them.

Russia’s Uranium Dominance Threatens America’s Next-Gen Nuclear Plans, By Tsvetana Paraskova – Oct 23, 2022, 10:00 AM CDT

  • The United States has ambitious plans for its nuclear power industry.
  • Russia’s stranglehold on the uranium market threatens to delay progress in nextgen nuclear power projects. 
  • U.S. companies are scrambling to develop the domestic uranium supply chain needed to fuel nuclear power ambitions.

……………………..

there is one major hurdle to the construction of most advanced reactors under development in the United States—the uranium type of fuel on which those reactors are designed to run is currently sold commercially by only one company in the world. And that company is a subsidiary of Russia’s ROSATOM, the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation.

The federal government and U.S. companies developing advanced nuclear reactors—including Bill Gates’ TerraPower—recognize the urgent need to eliminate reliance on a Russian state corporation for nuclear fuel for America’s next-generation nuclear reactors.  

The association Uranium Producers of America noted during a Senate committee hearing after the Russian invasion of Ukraine that “almost none of the fuel needed to power America’s nuclear fleet today comes from domestic producers, while U.S. nuclear utilities purchase nearly half of the of the uranium they consume from state-owned entities (SEO) in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.”

“We estimate that there is more than $1 billion in annual U.S. dollar purchases of nuclear fuel flowing to ROSATOM,” said Scott Melbye, president of the association and Executive Vice President at Uranium Energy Corp.

ROSATOM is not under Western sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of the Russian state firm’s importance in the supply chain of the global nuclear power industry. But the U.S. firms developing the next generation of more efficient, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly nuclear reactors don’t want to do business with Russia anymore.

Hence, the need for a commercially viable and stable domestic supply chain of the fuel for those advanced reactors—HALEU, or high assay low enriched uranium. ……………………………………….

 the U.S. government faces the “chicken and egg” dilemma in HALEU supply, Matt Bowen, Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA, and Paul M. Dabbar, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the same center, wrote in a paper in May this year/ 

“Existing enrichment companies, such as Urenco, Orano, GLE, and Centrus, could make HALEU, but these companies would likely be hesitant to invest too much in building HALEU infrastructure and completing NRC licensing without being confident there will in fact be a profitable market for the product,” they say.   

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October 23, 2022 - Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, Uranium

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