Oklo and Centrus Energy broaden links with MoU

29 August 2023

Advanced reactor plant developer Oklo has expanded its partnership with Centrus Energy with a memorandum of understanding covering the development of the Aurora powerhouses and High-Assay, Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel supply.

How an Aurora powerhouse could look (Image: Oklo/Gensler)

The two companies signed a letter of intent in 2021 to cooperate in the development of a HALEU fuel facility.

The MoU says the two companies intend for Centrus to manufacture components for Oklo's Aurora powerhouses as well as manufacturing capacity at the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, where HALEU production will take place. It will also purchase electricity from the powerhouses, while Oklo would purchase HALEU fuel from the production facility.

The companies also said they would "work together to establish and license the capabilities necessary to deconvert HALEU from uranium hexafluoride to uranium metal and fabricate fuel assemblies for Oklo’s Aurora powerhouses".

Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo, said: "Our wide-ranging landmark partnership with Centrus is expected to span fuel production, manufacturing, and power off-take, exemplifying the early market interest in our scalable power plants and differentiated business model, involving selling power, not power plants. This important collaboration is expected to facilitate several elements of our strategy to meet the growing demand for our powerhouses that stems from our pipeline of customer engagements across various industries."

Daniel Poneman, Centrus President and CEO, said: "We see tremendous potential in a strategic partnership between Centrus and Oklo to advance the next generation of carbon-free nuclear energy ... we are excited to see strong support from industry leaders like Oklo as well as growing bipartisan support in Congress and the Administration for robust investment in domestic uranium enrichment."

HALEU fuel contains uranium enriched to between 5% and 20% uranium-235 - higher than the uranium fuel used in light-water reactors currently in operation, which typically contains up to 5% uranium-235. It will be needed by most of the advanced reactor designs being developed under the DOE's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. But the lack of a commercial supply chain to support these reactors has prompted the DOE to launch a programme to stimulate the development of a domestic source of HALEU.

Centrus announced in June it had completed its operational readiness reviews and received regulatory approval to possess uranium at its Piketon, Ohio site and introduce uranium into the cascade of centrifuges it has constructed there. The company said it remains on track to begin production of HALEU at the plant before the end of the year.

It has said it could scale up the Piketon facility for expanded HALEU production, subject to sufficient funding or offtake contracts. A full cascade of 120 individual centrifuge machines, with a combined capacity of approximately 6000 kilograms of HALEU per year, could be brought online within about 42 months of securing funding, according to the company.

Oklo's Aurora design is a fast neutron reactor that uses heat pipes to transport heat from the reactor core to a supercritical carbon dioxide power conversion system to generate electricity. The Aurora 'powerhouse' uses metallic HALEU fuel to produce about 15 MWe as well as producing usable heat.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News