The US Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking feedback on two draft requests for proposals (RFPs) to acquire high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)—a crucial material needed to develop and deploy advanced reactors in the United States.
The use of HALEU in advanced reactor designs can improve the fuel utilization efficiency, allowing for longer fuel cycles and reduced refueling requirements. Additionally, it can enable higher power densities and enhanced safety characteristics in certain reactor designs.
Currently, there is a very limited domestic capacity to provide HALEU from either DOE or commercial sources. This presents a significant obstacle to the development and deployment of advanced reactors and increases the risk of private investment to develop an assured supply of HALEU or to support the infrastructure required to produce it.
The first draft RFP focuses on acquiring services for production of HALEU material as uranium hexafluoride (UF6) (enriched up to <20% by weight in the isotope uranium-235). Because the enriched UF6 must be deconverted to other forms before it can be fabricated into HALEU fuel or put to other use, DOE intends to issue a second solicitation concurrently for HALEU UF6 deconversion services to convert enriched uranium hexafluoride gas into metal or oxide forms used to fabricate fuels needed by various advanced reactor developers.
DOE is looking for feedback on the draft solicitations, including the goals, scope, and selection criteria. DOE will use that feedback to inform the final RFPs to be issued later this year. The draft RFPs are open for public comment until 6 July.
DOE projects that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU could be needed before the end of the decade, with additional amounts required each year, to deploy a new fleet of advanced reactors in a timeframe that supports a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.
The HALEU Availability Program was authorized by the Energy Act of 2020 and responds to congressional direction to ensure HALEU fuel is available to support civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provided $700 million to the HALEU Availability Program.
In December 2022, the DOE established the High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) consortium to provide a forum through which DOE can work with individual members to support the availability of HALEU for civilian domestic demonstration and commercial use.