WASHINGTON/LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) – U.S. firms developing a new generation of small nuclear power plants to help cut carbon emissions have a big problem: only one company sells the fuel they need, and it’s Russian.
That’s why the U.S. government is urgently looking to use some of its stockpile of weapons-grade uranium to help fuel the new advanced reactors and kick-start an industry it sees as crucial for countries to meet global net-zero emissions goals.
“Production of HALEU is a critical mission and all efforts to increase its production are being evaluated,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said.
The energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine has renewed interest in nuclear power. Backers of smaller, next-generation reactors say they are more efficient, quicker to build, and could turbocharge the shift away from fossil fuels.
But without a reliable source of the high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) the reactors need, developers worry they won’t receive orders for their plants. And without orders, potential producers of the fuel are unlikely to get commercial supply chains up and running to replace the Russian uranium.
“We understand the need for urgent action to incentivize the establishment of a sustainable, market-driven supply of HALEU,” the DOE spokesperson said.