Centrus is about to corner the U.S. nuclear fuel market
Centrus Energy last week announced it finished building centrifuges to make nuclear fuel for advanced reactors.
Why it matters: The vast majority of advanced nuclear reactors will rely on a fuel known as HALEU, or High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium. Centrus is about to corner that market.
Driving the news: Centrus built 16 centrifuges at its facility in Piketon, Ohio, to make HALEU.
- Nine of the 10 reactor designs chosen to receive federal funding for advanced reactors will need HALEU. These include designs by companies like TerraPower and X-energy.
- Centrus says production could begin this year, pending sign-off from regulators.
- That would make its plant the first U.S.-owned enrichment site using U.S. tech since the Eisenhower era.
Of note: Centrus is spending $150 million to complete the plant — though it's splitting that cost 50-50 with the U.S. Department of Energy.
State of play: Russia is the only large-scale HALEU supplier. Its invasion of Ukraine sparked a sudden shortage.
- The Bill Gates-backed reactor developer TerraPower, for example, said the upheaval was forcing it to delay its timeline.
Meanwhile, potential competitors face years of regulatory approvals.
- Those possible rivals include Orano, whose parent company is based in France, and Urenco, jointly owned by the British, Dutch and German companies.
- Both companies provide enrichment services for the U.S. But neither has yet moved ahead with HALEU — which has attracted some scrutiny about Centrus' government connections.
The intrigue: Centrus, formerly known as United States Enrichment, went bankrupt when uranium prices collapsed with the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
- Centrus has close ties to the feds — a vital relationship for a sector as heavily regulated as nuclear energy. (Indeed, Centrus is based in Bethesda.)
- Longtime CEO Dan Poneman was previously deputy energy secretary in the Obama administration.