Since 2018, the US government has been investigating ways to employ low-enriched fuel that cannot be used as fissile material in weapons in order to reduce the proliferation concerns associated with maintaining stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium.
According to a report submitted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to Congress last year, the US research program moved from a planning phase into a "iterative experimental campaign phase" in fiscal year 2021. The report stated that early findings indicate progress in what may be a 20–25-year design effort.
Even if Congress is divided over whether to continue funding the program, US research is moving closer to the potential of substituting a safer option for the bomb-grade uranium used in nuclear reactors on Navy submarines and aircraft carriers, according to documents disclosed on Wednesday.
Since 2018, the US government has been searching for applications for low-enriched fuel that cannot be utilized as fissile material in weapons in an attempt to alleviate proliferation concerns associated with holding highly-enriched uranium reserves.
Last year, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) informed Congress that the US research program had moved from the planning phase to the "iterative experimental campaign phase" in fiscal year 2021. Preliminary findings indicate progress in a project that may take 20 to 25 years to finish, according to the article.
The $245 billion AUKUS defense technology partnership with Australia and Britain exacerbates the problem of highly-enriched fuel in naval vessels by requesting the sale of US nuclear-powered submarines and the sharing of nuclear-propulsion technology with Australia in response to China's increasing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Experts on non-proliferation assert that sending Australia highly enriched uranium-using submarines might act as a template for other nations looking to use the fuel.
According to the NNSA study, the low-enriched uranium fuel program aims to satisfy "the stringent requirements for the power output, compact size, and long-life the US Navy requires." "Initial activities are the first steps on a long, costly path to fuel development and success is not assured," the inquiry found.
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