GE Vernova Receives Approval to Manufacture High-Enrichment Nuclear Fuel

Nuclear plant on the water

(Credit: GE Vernova)

by | Feb 16, 2024

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Global Nuclear Fuel, GE Vernova’s nuclear fuel business, has received approval from the United States to produce high-enrichment uranium fuels used for next-generation nuclear reactors.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the company to manufacture, ship, and analyze uranium with 235 enrichments of up to 8 weight percent. The approval reportedly makes Global Nuclear Fuel’s (GNF) facility in Wilmington, North Carolina the first commercial facility in the country to fabricate such high-enrichment uranium fuel.

NRC’s approval also allows GNF to ship the high-enrichment uranium fuel using the company’s stainless steel RAJ-II shipping container. GNF may also analyze fuels with enrichments greater than 5 weight percent.

“These regulatory milestones build on our long history of designing and fabricating fuel for the nuclear industry,” said Mike Chilton, executive vice president for GNF. “We will continue to innovate to help our customers run their plants even more efficiently and be ready to support the next generation of reactor technology with reliable, flexible fuel products as the industry progresses to the use of higher enrichments.”

The approvals were made possible in part because of the company’s involvement with the Department of Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuel Program, which works to improve the safety of light-water reactors and improve nuclear plant performance overall.

Nuclear Fuel Developments Support Clean Energy Worldwide

GE Vernova’s approval follows a string of developments in the nuclear fuel industry, many made to improve domestic production of nuclear fuel and to support new nuclear technologies like advanced and small modular reactors.

Most nuclear reactors currently run on low-enriched uranium, or uranium with a 3% to 5% enrichment level. High-enrichment uranium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) have experienced increased production, however, as countries work to expand their clean energy profiles with the adoption of next-generation nuclear reactors.

These fuels reportedly allow for longer operating times and reduced production of radioactive waste.

In the case of HALEU, Russia has generally been the major producer of the fuel. But many countries, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom, have made plans to expand domestic production of HALEU to support their respective nuclear industries without dependence on Russian fuels. Earlier this year, the U.K. announced the launch of a $381 million nuclear fuel program, while the U.S. has licensed a new HALEU facility in Ohio — the first uranium enrichment plant to start production in the country since 1954.

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