U.S. National Academies report on reducing the use of HEU in research reactors

A committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report Reducing the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium in Civilian Research Reactors. The congressionally mandated report urges the U.S. government to take a number of steps to reduce the use of HEU in research reactors.

The report calls for development of a long-term national strategy that would ensure that the future need for neutrons in civilian applications can be met with sources that do not use HEU. It recommends that the United States continue to develop very high-density LEU fuels that could be used in U.S. high-performance research reactors and closely monitor LEU fuel development programs in other countries to evaluate their potential use in U.S. reactors.

The report recommends pursuing an interim solution to reducing the use of HEU. It would involve the following steps:

  1. Conversion of U.S. high-performance research reactors to dispersion silicide fuel enriched to the lowest practical level;
  2. Downblending of 20 MT of HEU designated for civilian research reactors to the lowest practical enrichment level;
  3. Continuing the effort toward the long-term goal of eliminating HEU usage in civilian applications.

The NAS report also supports expanding international cooperation on HEU minimization and makes some specific recommendations regarding the management of the HEU minimization program in the United States.