NNSA, TVA reach agreement to down-blend highly enriched uranium

Published on August 27, 2018 by Chris Galford

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Highly enriched uranium

A new arrangement between the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will allow down-blending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for national security purposes.

Down-blending is a process that turns HEU into low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is used in the creation of tritium. Tritium, in turn, plays a role in U.S. nuclear weapons. Since the United States lacks a source of unobligated enriched uranium on the open market, down-blending allows for the supply of LEU for defense purposes.

“Without this down-blending campaign, we would need to accelerate the development and execution of a strategy to provide LEU fuel for tritium production by nearly a decade,” Phil Calbos, NNSA’s Acting Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, said.

The plan is part of a campaign that will run through 2025. TVA will continue to provide storage and material management for the effort through 2040. The agreement follows a Secretarial Determination made earlier this month by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry. At that time, Perry arranged for NNSA transfers from DOE’s inventories to continue in support of national security.