GE Vernova subsidiary Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) has received US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval to manufacture, ship and analyse the performance of nuclear fuel with Uranium-235 enrichments of up to 8% weight.

NRC approval makes GNF’s manufacturing facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, the first commercial US facility to hold a license to fabricate fuel enrichments up to 8% weight. NRC has issued a Certificate of Compliance allowing GNF to ship nuclear fuel bundles up to 8% weight utilising the company’s RAJ-II shipping container. NRC has also approved licensing topical reports for advanced nuclear methods that enable GNF to analyse fuel with enrichments greater than 5% weight.

“These regulatory milestones build on our long history of designing and fabricating fuel for the nuclear industry,” said GNF Executive Vice President Mike Chilton. “We will continue to innovate to help our customers run their plants even more efficiently and be ready to support the next generation of reactor technology with reliable, flexible fuel products as the industry progresses to the use of higher enrichments.”

These approvals were made possible in part by work GNF and GE Vernova’s Advanced Research business have conducted for the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) programme. Several companies, including Framatome, GE/GNF and Westinghouse, are developing ATF concepts with DOE support. NRC in 2023 issued the first authorisation for US commercial reactor to use fuel with over 5% enrichment, allowing Southern Nuclear to use advanced nuclear fuel enriched up to 6% U-235 at Vogtle unit 2.

GNF is developing and deploying fuel technologies with enhanced accident tolerance and operational flexibility while enabling sustained economic performance by improving bundle efficiency. Higher enrichment fuels are anticipated to improve nuclear fuel cycle economics including through power uprates for existing boiling water reactors and also for the next generation of reactor technology including advanced and small modular reactors.

Image: GE Vernova’s fuel manufacturing facility in Wilmington, North Carolina (courtesy of GE Vernova)