ILL agrees to US terms to get HEU fuel

30 November 1998

Because of the failure of Russia to supply highly enriched fuel for its High Flux Reactor (HFR), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble has come to an arrangement with the US to ensure it will get the required fuel.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding signed on 12 November, ILL agreed to convert its reactor to the use of lower enriched fuel as soon as it is techically and economically possible. In return, the US will supply the HEU fuel needed to operate the reactor and also take back the spent fuel.

In 1995, following a four year repair outage, ILL found that it could no longer get its fuel from the US as, under the 1992 Schumer Amendment, the US could not supply HEU fuel unless France had agreed to the coversion even though no suitable fuel existed. France then approached Russia’s MINATOM and reached an agreement by which Russia would become a scientific member of the ILL in return for supplying the necessary fuel. However, no fuel has actually been delivered although this channel of supply remains open.

The US is obliged under its own legislation to promote the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors programme. As using lower enriched uranium affects reactor performance, substantial research has been underway for some 20 years to facilitate conversion of older research reactors to operate effectively. A suitable fuel for the HFR is still some way from being available.

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