New legislation aims to expand U.S. nuclear fuel programs

Published on September 28, 2023 by Chris Galford

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U.S. Reps. Bob Latta (R-OH) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC) this week reintroduced the Nuclear Fuel Security Act, H.R. 5718, hoping to drive new investments in domestic energy production. 

The bill, if enacted, would create a Nuclear Fuel Security Program under the Department of Energy to oversee increased production of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) and, potentially, low-enriched uranium produced by domestic nuclear energy companies. It would also establish the HALEU for Advanced Nuclear Reactor Demonstration Projects Program to help the DOE meet advanced nuclear reactor developers on their terms, at least until commercial enrichment and deconversion capabilities for HALEU exist in the U.S. at scale for future needs.

“The demand for domestic energy grows day by day, but without further investments in U.S. energy production, we will continue to struggle to meet that demand,” Latta said. “To mitigate this issue, we should harness the power of nuclear fuel – which is both clean and renewable – to meet the energy needs of the American people. Right now, unfortunately, we import 90 percent of the uranium fuel used in our domestic nuclear reactors from foreign countries. To avoid threats to our nuclear supply chain, it’s critical we take action to reinvest in our domestic nuclear energy capabilities – and it begins with shoring up our domestic uranium mining, production, enrichment, and conversion capacity.”

This would not entirely eliminate foreign reliance. The U.S. still would be able to collaborate with allies or partners to meet the needs and schedules for HALEU and advanced nuclear reactors. However, the plan would also authorize the Secretary of Energy to expand the American Assured Fuel Supply Program to improve the availability of domestically produced, converted and enriched uranium even during supply disruptions. 

“The United States has overwhelmingly relied on foreign nations to meet our energy production needs since 1953,” Clyburn said. “We will not achieve full energy independence or unlock the economic and security benefits that come with it without investing in a strong domestic nuclear industry. Strengthening our ability to produce nuclear fuel on American soil will reduce our reliance on Russia and bring us one step closer towards detangling our web of energy dependence in an ever-changing world.”