BR-2 reactor in Belgium switched fuel providers, but keeps HEU

The Belgian Nuclear Research Center SCK•CEN in Mol, Belgium, which operates the BR-2 research reactor withdrew its request for 144 kg of U.S. HEU that would be used to manufacture fuel for the reactor. The license application request to provide the material was submitted to NRC by the Y-12 National Security Complex in December 2014 (export license XSNM3758). According to the application, the material, uranium enriched to 93.2% of U-235, was to be shipped to the CERCA facility in France, where it were to be used to manufacture fuel for the BR-2 reactor.

Previous requests of this kind were made in February 2010 (license XSNM3622, 93.5 kg of 93.35% HEU) and in 2006 (license XSNM03404, 85.5 kg of 93.35% HEU). At the time the license was issued in 2006, it was expected that the reactor will be converted to LEU by 2010. However, the reactor still operates with HEU and there are no known plans to convert it to LEU fuel.

According to a statement by a representative of the Belgian Nuclear Research Center, the application withdrawal was a result of a change of the fuel provider. In 2015, the SCK•CEN Center announced a tender to choose a new supplier, which was completed in January 2016. The fuel supply contract was awarded to a U.S. company [apparently Babcock & Wilcox]. As a result, shipments of HEU metal to France became unnecessary, so the license request was withdrawn. However, shipments of HEU fuel will require a separate license.

The BR-2 reactor has been shut down for modernization since March 2015. It is scheduled to restart in mid-2016.