The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) helps convert research reactors around the world from the use of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) fuel to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel as a crucial part of its nuclear security mission. Reactor Conversion is part of NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) to develop and implement technologies to minimize and, to the extent possible, eliminate the civilian use of HEU, including in research reactors and isotope production facilities worldwide.
As part of this international effort, GTRI partnered with Belgium, France and the Republic of Korea to cooperate on utilizing high-density LEU fuel powder production technology in support of the conversion of European high-performance research reactors.
This international cooperation includes:
- Under the quadrilateral cooperation framework, the U.S. will ship approximately 100kg of LEU to the Republic of Korea, where they will fabricate atomized uranium molybdenum (U-Mo) powder using centrifugal atomizing technology. The Republic of Korea will then ship the U-Mo powder to the French fabricator AREVA-CERCA for its use in the manufacture of high-density U-Mo fuel lead test assemblies.
- After an appropriate form of high-density U-Mo dispersion type of fuel has been qualified, France and Belgium will load the lead test assemblies into their high performance research reactors to test the performance of the fuel. Experts will assess the performance of the fuel and other technical aspects of the project, including the function and efficiency of the U-Mo fuel.
- If the result proves satisfactory, GTRI intends to work with France and Belgium to convert the relevant reactors and further cooperate in sharing information and providing necessary assistance to additional countries seeking to convert reactors from HEU fuel to LEU fuel.