BWXT subsidiary awarded contract extension for uranium down-blending services

16 February 2024

US-based BWX Technologies subsidiary Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) has been awarded a $122m contract extension from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for the down-blending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) into low enriched uranium (LEU).

Under this contract, NFS will continue to provide down-blending services to the TVA in support of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) defence programme’s objectives. The extension continues the existing down-blending operations from July 2025 to June 2027.

Down-blending is a process in which HEU is mixed with natural uranium resulting in LEU needed for various commercial and national defence purposes. NFS has been down-blending HEU since 1995, when it was selected by the US Government to down-blend a stockpile of HEU as part of Project Sapphire - a covert operation that took place in 1994 and transferred HEU from Kazakhstan to the USA. The project was a joint effort between the US, Kazakhstan, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to secure and remove weapons-grade nuclear material from Kazakhstan in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. The operation transported approximately 600 kilograms of HEU from the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

“We are proud of the role we play in national defence and pleased that we can continue our work with the TVA and NNSA in support of this mission,” said Ronald K Dailey, NFS president. “This contract extension also enables operations and engineering continuity with our uranium conversion and purification contract with NNSA.”

In 2001 TVA entered into an agreement with DOE to use the down-blended uranium as fuel for its Browns Ferry and Watts Bar NPPs. In 2018, NFS was awarded a $505m contract by TVA for down-blending 20.2 tonnes of HEU to provide fuel for its NPPs. Work began in early 2019 and will continue until mid-2025. As part of this contract Watts Bar NPP began to produce tritium for NNSA’s nuclear weapons refurbishment programme.

Image: The Watts Bar nuclear power plant in Tennessee

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