Russia confirmed supplying HEU to the FRM-II reactor in Germany

Russia has officially confirmed that it is supplying HEU for the fuel of the FRM-II research reactor, operated by the Technical University Munich, Germany. The 2015 annual report of the TVEL company, a subsidiary of Rosatom that supplies nuclear fuel and enrichment services, includes the following statement (p. 88):

In 2015, the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant produced and prepared for shipment uranium metal for the Munich-II research reactor located in Germany.

The report also confirms that production of uranium for export was one of the reasons Russia reopened HEU production line at the Electrochemical plant (EKhZ) in Zelenogorsk in 2012. "Production by the EKhZ of highly enriched product for the uranium metal to be supplied to the Munich-II reactor" is listed among main developments in 2015 (p. 86 of the report).

The FRM-II in Munich, which went critical in 2004, is estimated to require about 33 kg of HEU annually to operate. It appears that FRM-II reactor was the primary user of the 300 kg of HEU that Russia supplied to Germany under an 1998 intergovernmental agreement. It cannot rely on the HEU supply from the United States, since it requires a commitment to convert the reactor to LEU. FRM-II operators appeared to have made a commitment to convert at some point but reversed it later and decided to continue to use HEU fuel. According to one estimate, made in 2012, the reactor had enough HEU to work through 2016. After that, fuel supply was uncertain.

However, in in 2013, the Technical University Munich contracted Areva to produce HEU fuel elements for FRM-II. Although the source of HEU was not disclosed at the time, by all indication the material was expected to come from Russia (which also agreed to supply 27% HEU for the initial load of France's Jules Horowitz reactor). In 2013, Russia opened an HEU production line, and in 2014 the Russian government relaxed some legal restrictions on HEU export. Now the TVEL company confirmed that Russia is indeed the supplier of HEU for the FRM-II reactor.