Framatome and TerraPower announced an agreement to design and develop a high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) metallization pilot line at Framatome’s nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington.

Framatome says the pilot line will further verify its ability to convert uranium oxide (UO2) into HALEU metal, initiating a long-term collaboration to supply metal feedstock and help TerraPower build a domestic HALEU supply chain. TerraPower already supports operational centers in Washington state at its Bellevue-based headquarters and laboratory, and at its Everett laboratory location.

“A strong domestic fuel supply chain is crucial for the wide-scale deployment of advanced nuclear energy solutions; an energy source we know is needed to meet clean energy targets and provide reliable, baseload energy. This investment by TerraPower into Framatome’s pilot line is a critical step in bringing advanced reactors like the NatriumTM technology to market. It is also one more way that TerraPower is delivering on its promise to do our part to support the fuel manufacturing sector,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower President and CEO.

Metallization of HALEU allows uranium to transform into a metal that is then used to fabricate fuel for advanced reactors.

Framatome submitted an application for U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding that will be awarded in response to a DOE HALEU Availability Program (HAP) Solicitation (the HAP Deconversion and Metallization Request for Proposals).

TerraPower is currently developing the Natrium advanced nuclear power plant that it says will provide GW-scale energy storage. The company’s technology features a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed. This addition allows a Natrium plant to integrate with renewable resources. The Natrium demonstration plant is being constructed near a retiring coal facility in Wyoming.

Last year, TerraPower and Centrus Energy announced they were expanding their collaboration aimed at establishing commercial-scale, domestic HALEU production capabilities to supply TerraPower’s Natrium reactor and energy storage system. In June 2023, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved Centrus’ request to make HALEU fuel at the Piketon, Ohio facility – the first licensed HALEU production facility in the United States.. 

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