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LEU for U.S. tritium: DoE plans

AtomInfo.Ru, PUBLISHED 03.12.2014

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

See also LEU for U.S. tritium: enrichment plants in the USA.

In the near to medium term, the Department of Energy sees three sources of obtaining the LEU for the tritium producing. In fact, they are all somehow tied to stocks.

The TVA company TVA, the tritium producer, has a valid contract with USEC (its new name is Centrus), under which the latter undertook to supply the LEU for these purposes until mid-2015 financial year. It is obvious that supplies under this contract are provided now from the USEC inventory.

The second source of the non-obligated LEU is the reserves formed the department in a series of exchanges of the quantities of uranium, initiated in May 2012. The department assured that in the the result of those swap operations it had accumulated a reserve of LEU sufficient for 15 years to produce tritium in a single reactor.

Finally, the third source can be the government program "Mixed Oxide Backup LEU Inventory Project", which was supposed the dilution of some HEU for the needs of the MOX fuel production. Under this program the department accumulated some non-obligated LEU and it can be used for tritium production for six years.

After analyzing all available on the topic of the DoE documents, the GAO auditors amounted own view about stocks of the non-obligated LEU (see figure below). The opinion of the auditors were more pessimistic than the opinions of DoE, They said that the available LEU is enough to ensure the production of tritium till 2030.

The forecast on the assumption that tritium is produced in a single reactor.
Click the left mouse button to view.

However, this forecast may be too optimistic if the needs of the U.S. military in tritium will be increased and the capabilities of a single reactor would be enough. In this scenario, the inventory of the non-obligated LEU in the United States will end in mid-20s.

It should be added that American experts are still unable to resolve the leakage of tritium from TPBAR rods, in which the tritium is produced. Therefore, the production of tritium for military needs in the United States still has not reached its targets. In this regard, one cannot exclude the assumption that the Americans will have to joint the second reactor to the tritium program.

Now the tritium production is performed on the unit 1 of the Watts Bar NPP. The second reactor, which can be connected to the program, one means one of the units of the Sequoyah NPP.

Topics: NFC, USA, Opinions

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