KHNP, Centrus enhance cooperation in fuel supply

27 February 2024

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) has signed a Letter of Intent with US nuclear fuel and services company Centrus Energy to ensure a stable supply of nuclear fuel. It follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two companies in April last year.

The signing of the Letter of Intent (Image: KHNP)

The Letter of Intent (LOI) outlines substantive business objectives to enhance uranium resource security and nuclear cooperation between KHNP and Centrus, KHNP said. Through this, KHNP aims to diversify the supply of enriched uranium used as nuclear fuel to enhance fuel supply stability. Additionally, KHNP expects to strengthen nuclear cooperation between South Korea and the USA by establishing strategic relationships with Centrus.

"As a result of cooperation with Centrus, KHNP has opened the possibility of securing fuel for future reactors as well as for existing commercial reactors," KHNP said.

"Through the signing of this LOI, both parties will engage in concrete discussions regarding stable nuclear fuel supply and plan to continue exploring business opportunities in the nuclear sector by expanding the future nuclear fuel supply chain," KHNP CEO Hwang Joo-ho said.

On 25 April 2023, KHNP signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Centrus, through which the two companies planned to enhance mutual cooperation for a stable fuel supply while exploring opportunities for expanding their businesses.

At the time of signing the MoU, KHNP said it would "increase the stability of fuel supply and demand by diversifying suppliers of enriched uranium used as nuclear power plant fuel and contribute to strengthening Korea-US nuclear cooperation by establishing a strategic partnership with US enrichment companies. This is an important achievement that strengthens supply chain cooperation with allies in a situation where resource security has become more important than ever amid recent geopolitical instability and global supply chain crisis".

KHNP operates South Korea's 26 power reactors, which with a combined capacity of some 26 GWe generate about one-third of the country's electricity.

In December, KHNP launched its new Innovative SMR (i-SMR) - an integrated pressurised water reactor type nuclear power plant with an electrical output of 170 MWe. It is being developed according to a development roadmap, with the goal of completing the standard design by the end of 2025 and obtaining standard design approval in 2028.

In November last year, Centrus Energy produced the USA's first 20 kilograms of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). Some of the advanced reactor technologies that are currently under development use HALEU fuel - enriched to between 5% and 20% U-235 - which enables the design of smaller reactors that produce more power with less fuel than the current fleet, as well as systems that can be optimised for longer core life, increased safety margins, and other increased efficiencies. At present, only Russia and China have the infrastructure to produce HALEU at scale.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News