Cylinder shortages hit Centrus HALEU plans

12 February 2024

The US nuclear fuel and services company expects the shortages to be temporary but says it will no longer be able to deliver the anticipated 900 kg of material under the second part of its contract with the US Department of Energy.

The HALEU Demonstration Cascade was activated in October 2023 (Image: Centrus)

Centrus made its first delivery of 20 kg of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) produced at the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, to the Department of Energy (DOE) in November, marking the end of the first phase of a cost-share contract signed in 2022. The company then moved forward to the second phase of that contract - a full year of HALEU production at the 900 kg per year plant.

The contract is part of DOE efforts to ensure the availability of HALEU - uranium enriched to between 5% and 20% uranium-235 - for advanced nuclear fuel for next-generation reactor designs and to build a domestic HALEU supply chain. The material is to remain on site in Piketon in a specially constructed storage facility until it is needed.

DOE is contractually required to provide the storage cylinders needed to collect the output from the Piketon cascade, but "supply chain challenges have created difficulties" for the department in securing the necessary 5B cylinders the entire production year, Centrus said in its Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2023 Results, released on 8 February. "Centrus anticipates that the delays in obtaining 5B Cylinders will be temporary, but no longer will deliver 900 kilograms of HALEU UF6 originally anticipated for Phase 2 of the contract, which extends to November 2024," the company said.

Type B cylinders are regulator-certified casks that can maintain shielding from gamma and neutron radiation used for materials including enriched uranium. The Type 30B cylinders are used to transport low-enriched uranium to fuel fabricators cannot be used for HALEU, which is enriched above 5% uranium-235.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News