SMR fuel supply chain grows as agreements signed

30 November 2023

Ontario Power Generation has selected suppliers Cameco, Urenco USA, Orano and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas for the first fuel contracts for its planned small modular reactor (SMR) units at the Darlington New Nuclear Project, while TerraPower and uranium producer Uranium Energy Corp are to work together on the fuel supply chain ahead of the construction of the first-of-a-kind Natrium plant.

OPG and its partners made their announcement at World Nuclear Exhibition 2023 in Paris (Image: X/@urencoglobal)

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) between TerraPower, which is planning to build the Natrium demonstration project at Kemmerer in Wyoming, and Uranium Energy Corp (UEC) has the goal of re-establishing domestic US supply chains of uranium fuel. It will also allow the two companies to explore the potential supply of uranium for TerraPower's first-of-kind Natrium reactor and energy storage system, they said.

The Natrium technology is a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor coupled with a molten salt-based energy storage system than can boost power output to 500 MW to serve peak demand. Earlier this year, TerraPower awarded contracts to four companies to supply services and equipment for the demonstration project, and signed an MoU with Centrus Energy Corp aimed at establishing commercial-scale, US production capabilities for the high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) the reactor will need.

UEC's Wyoming production platform includes a portfolio of more than 20 uranium projects including four that are fully permitted for in-situ leach production including the Irigaray Central Processing Plant and Christensen Ranch ISR facilities in Johnson County, Wyoming where UEC's initial production will be focused.

The MoU between TerraPower and UEC is a "great step forward" for Wyoming's uranium industry, its Governor Mark Gordon said. "TerraPower chose Wyoming as a partner for their Natrium advanced nuclear reactor plant. Once again, they are demonstrating leadership and commitment to a nuclear future in Wyoming through this MoU with Uranium Energy Corp."

"TerraPower continues to move forward in bringing the Natrium reactor to market, and that includes establishing our fuel supply chain," said the company's President and CEO Chris Levesque. "A robust, domestic supply chain for nuclear fuel is crucial as we deploy the next generation of nuclear energy."

UEC President and CEO Amir Adnani said the company was pleased to form strategic relationships that support the emerging uranium demand from SMRs and advanced reactors. "In these geopolitically complex times, UEC's vision is to be the leading provider of conflict-free, American uranium for the existing, as well as the new reactors that will come online," he said.

OPG selects suppliers

OPG plans to finish building the first of a fleet of four GE-HItcahi BWRX-300 SMRs at its Darlington New Nuclear site by the end of 2028, and to get the unit online by the end of 2029. It has now announced that it has selected four companies from Canada, the USA and France to partner with to ensure a fuel supply for the first of those units.

Canadian company Cameco will be contracted to supply natural uranium hexafluoride; US-based, Urenco USA will provide uranium enrichment services from its operations in Eunice, New Mexico; France's Orano will provide additional enriched uranium product from its operations in France; and GE-led, US-based, joint venture Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas LLC will provide fuel fabrication and related technical services and fuel assemblies.

These "historic arrangements" signal a strengthening nuclear fuel supply chain and the self-sufficiency of nations that are developing nuclear generation to decarbonise their economies, the company said.

"Access to clean energy at large scale is becoming a key determinant of a country's competitiveness and security," OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick said. "Because of our leadership in nuclear generation and supply chains, Ontario and Canada are well-positioned to work with companies from like-minded ally nations to send an important message to the world that a safe, secure, clean global energy system is achievable through nuclear power."

The announcement sees OPG become Urenco's first commercial customer for enrichment services in Canada as well as being also the first customer to sign a long-term fuel supply agreement for an SMR, Urenco said.

"New nuclear technology will play a vital part in both the decarbonisation of electricity and the strengthening of energy security around the world," Urenco Chief Commercial Officer Laurent Odeh said. "Urenco has the knowledge and experience to play a leading role in the supply of enriched uranium for the reactors of tomorrow and is proud to be a supplier for this innovative and exciting project in Canada with our newest customer, OPG."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News