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LEU for U.S. tritium: HEU and LEU for military

AtomInfo.Ru, PUBLISHED 20.11.2014

The uranium enrichment in the USA is provided for over 60 years for both civilian and military purposes.

Up until 1992, the enrichment is engaged directly in the Department of Energy (DoE) and its predecessors. In 1992 it established a state company USEC, subsequently privatized (the law on its privatization adopted in 1996, the procedure is completed in 1998).

USEC is the only company to enrich uranium using US technology. In May 2013 the company ceased work on the last commercial enrichment plant Paducah. Company's financial position has deteriorated significantly. In March 2014 it was accepted the conditions of chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, providing for the reorganization of the company.

Difficulties arising for USEC questioned the fate of the American program of creation of centrifuges for commercial use - American Centrifuge. This was the program for which the company spent a total of 2.5 billion dollars. In April, the Department of Energy transfers temporarily the control of the project to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The ultimate fate of the project has not yet been determined.

US military enriched uranium needs can be divided into two parts. Americans need the LEU for reactor tritium and the HEU to load into the active zone of transport reactors.

HEU is not produced in the United States currently. However, the country has significant inventory of HEU. According to the GAO auditors GAO, the stocks should last until 2064, provided the HEU will not diluting or spending on other needs.

The problem is more acute tritium. This isotope has a half-life of 12.33 years, and its reserves are subject to periodic renewal. Accordingly, the United States is required to have certain amount of LEU for the purpose of tritium, and the only commercial supplier of LEU was the USEC.

Topics: USA, NFC, Opinions

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