GE Vernova Receives Approval to Manufacture Higher Enrichment Fuel to Bolster Nuclear Industry

Feb. 15, 2024
Higher enrichment fuels are anticipated to improve nuclear fuel cycle economics, including for the next generation of reactor technology

GE Vernova’s nuclear fuel business – Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) – has received approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to manufacture, ship, and analyze the performance of nuclear fuel with Uranium-235 enrichments up to 8% weight.

Uranium found in nature mostly consists of two isotopes – Uranium-235 and Uranium-238. To create the proper mixture of Uranium to efficiently operate nuclear facilities, the concentration of Uranium-235 must be increased.

When a fuel mix is concentrated – or enriched – with Uranium-235, it becomes fissionable in light-water reactors, which are the most common reactor type in the US. Fission is the process that creates and sustains nuclear reactions.

Higher enrichment fuels are anticipated to improve nuclear fuel cycle economics, including through power uprates for existing boiling water reactors and for the next generation of reactor technology, such as advanced and small modular reactors.

With this NRC approval, GNF’s manufacturing facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, will become the first commercial facility in the US to hold a license to fabricate fuel enrichments at 8%, compared to its natural state of 0.7%, according to the NRC.

GNF has also been approved to ship the nuclear fuel bundles utilizing the company’s RAJ-II shipping container and to receive topical reports for advanced nuclear methods, which will enable GNF to analyze how different fuel enrichment rates affect performance.

“We will continue to innovate to help our customers run their plants even more efficiently and be ready to support the next generation of reactor technology with reliable, flexible fuel products at the industry progresses to the use of higher enrichments,” said GNF EVP Mike Chilton.