US to offer up to $3.4 billion for nuclear fuel makers in June

Credit: Centrus Energy Corp.

The US plans to start soliciting bids worth as much as $3.4 billion to buy domestically produced nuclear reactor fuel as soon as next month, according to a government notice.

The funding includes $2.7 billion requested by the White House as part of a broader plan to help restart the domestic nuclear fuel production industry through direct purchases of the low-enriched uranium used in reactors. The government aid was unlocked after President Joe Biden signed a ban on imports of enriched uranium from Russia, which provides about a quarter of the reactor fuel in the US, making it the nation’s top supplier.

The US was once a leading supplier of enriched uranium but lost its edge in the industry decades ago. The country now has just one commercial enrichment facility in New Mexico, owned by Urenco Ltd., a British, Dutch and German consortium.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Centrus Energy Corp. has said it will compete for the funding. The fuel supplier, which currently gets the majority of its uranium from Russia, plans to produce its own low-enriched uranium and has reported securing about $900 million in conditional sales commitments. Centrus also began production in October at a pilot plant that makes specialized, highly enriched uranium to be used in new breed of advanced reactors.

In addition to Centrus, companies that could benefit from the spending include ConverDyn, a joint venture between Honeywell International Inc. and General Atomics that provides uranium conversion services, and Global Laser Enrichment, jointly owned by Silex Systems LTD and Cameco Corp.

Domestic uranium mining companies could see a benefit from the funding as well, said Scott Melbye, president of the Uranium Producers of America, which represents such companies as Cameco Corp., Energy Fuels, Inc., Ur-Energy, Inc., and Uranium Energy Corp.

“US enrichment is going to favor and support western sources of uranium, so any sort of expansion of western enrichment over Russian enrichment is good for our business,” Melbye said in an interview.

(By Ari Natter)


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