Conversion Enrichment and Fabrication

Conversion and Deconversion

Prior to enrichment, uranium oxide must be converted to a fluoride so that it can be processed as a gas, at low temperature. Conversion plants are operating commercially in Canada, France, Russia and China. A US plant is closed but expected to restart in 2023.

Uranium Enrichment

Most of the commercial nuclear power reactors in the world today require uranium 'enriched' in the U-235 isotope for their fuel. The commercial process employed for this enrichment involves gaseous uranium hexafluoride in centrifuges.

Fuel Fabrication

Fuel fabrication is the final stage in nuclear fuel preparation prior to use in a reactor. Nuclear fuel assemblies are specifically designed for particular types of reactors and are made to exacting standards.

High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU)

The current fleet of nuclear reactors runs primarily on uranium fuel enriched up to 5% uranium-235 (U-235). High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is defined as uranium enriched to greater than 5% and less than 20% U-235. Applications for HALEU are today limited to research reactors and medical isotope production. However, HALEU will be needed for many advanced power reactor fuels, and more than half of the small modular reactor (SMR) designs in development.