WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. nuclear power regulator has approved production of uranium fuel that is far more enriched than fuel for conventional nuclear power plants, the company aiming to make the material said on Monday.
The fuel is known as high-assay, low-enriched uranium, or HALEU. Nonproliferation experts are concerned about the fuel as it is easier to convert into fissile material, the key component of nuclear weapons, than conventional reactor fuel.
The fuel will be allowed to be enriched to 5% to 20% uranium-235. That is less than the enrichment level of about 90% used in a nuclear weapon, but is far higher than fuel used in conventional nuclear reactors, which is about 3% to 5% enriched.
Nonproliferation experts voiced concern about the signal the approval sends to other countries, especially because Washington is trying to stop Iran from enriching 20% uranium.
A Centrus spokesperson said the United States “has always required adherence to the highest standards for safety, security and nonproliferation for any nation that buys our fuel, which is why it is so important that America does not cede this market to others.”