United States to send HEU to France for Belgian BR2 reactor

The Y-12 National Security Complex filed a request with NRC for a license to export 93.5 kg of highly-enriched uranium (87.3 kilograms U-235, enrichment 93.35%, License Number XSNM3622) to France to manufacture fuel for the BR2 research and isotope production reactor. The announcement was published in the Federal Register on February 19, 2010.

Previous shipment of HEU for the BR2 reactor took place in 2006, when the United States shipped 85.5 kg of the material. Also, in 2006, the BR2 reactor used some of the HEU that was supplied to France to manufacture fuel for HFR in Grenoble.

When NRC considered the license application in 2006 it was understood that it is expected that the BR2 reactor will be converted to LEU fuel. In a written response to the Nuclear Control Institute, which raised concerns about the shipment, NRC stated that, 
The U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) applied for a license (XSNM03404) to export a total of 85.5 kg of HEU (79.814 kg of U- 235) to Belgium for use as fuel at the BR2 reactor. It is estimated that this quantity of material will sustain BR2 operation from about 2007 through 2010, at which time the Belgian Nuclear Research Center expects to convert the reactor to high density low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel that has been qualified for that facility.

The U.S. law requires any shipment of HEU for research reactors to be accompanied by a commitment to convert the reactor to LEU fuel. Apparently, the conversion has not taken place and the United States will ship more HEU for the Belgian reactor. [UPDATE: In March 2010, NNSA applied for a license to export 160 kg of HEU to France for the HFR reactor in Grenoble.]

UPDATE: The license was issued on June 11, 2010.