The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for deconversion services to help establish a reliable domestic supply of fuels for advanced reactors using high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). DOE plans to award one or more contracts to deconvert HALEU as uranium hexafluoride gas to various chemical forms, such as metal or oxide, used to fabricate the fuels required by many advanced reactor developers. DOE said the deconverted material will be stored until there is a need to ship it to a fuel fabricator or other end user.
“Deconversion services are a key link in developing an advanced reactor fuel supply chain here in the United States,” said Dr Kathryn Huff, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. “We need these services urgently to enable advanced reactor deployments in support of our clean energy future.”
The deconversion contracts will last for up to 10 years, and the base awards guarantee a minimum of $2m to each recipient. Deconversion and storage services must occur in the continental US and activities must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. Proposals are due by 30 January 2024.
DOE plans to issue a second RFP later this year, which focuses on acquiring, storing, and transporting enriched uranium hexafluoride gas to the deconverters. Both RFPs incorporate industry feedback on the draft RFPs issued in June.
According to DOE, more than 40 tonnes of HALEU could be needed by 2030, with additional amounts required each year, to deploy a new fleet of advanced reactors in time to supports the Administration’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. The 2020 Energy Act authorises DOE to establish and carry out a programme to support the availability of HALEU for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provided $700m to the HALEU availability programme.