Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor Vol. 28 No. 15
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Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor
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April 12, 2024

NNSA to award study contract for Oak Ridge uranium enrichment tech in June

By Dan Leone

The National Nuclear Security Administration planned in June to award a one-year contract to study a pilot defense-uranium enrichment plant based on technology developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the agency said Friday.

The semiautonomous Department of Energy nuclear weapons agency narrowed the timeline for the award in a question-and-answer document published on a government contracting website. The agency solicited bids in March for what is officially known as the Domestic Uranium Enrichment Centrifuge Pilot Plant Deployment Study.

The Department of Energy has incubated the Oak Ridge technology as a potential competitor of much further advanced technology developed by Centrus Energy Corp., Bethesda, Md. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) needs a new source of all-domestic uranium for national defense programs beginning in the 2040s.

The NNSA sometimes calls the Oak Ridge technology the “small centrifuge” option and sometimes calls the Centrus technology the “large centrifuge” option.

The NNSA wants to start a pilot program to enrich defense uranium in 2030 or so.

Citing multiple international agreements, the NNSA says that only uranium produced entirely in the U.S. by machines made entirely from U.S. components may refine uranium for defense purposes.

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