§ 69.207. Nuclear fuel procurement process.
(a) The nuclear fuel procurement process consists of the following major procurement and processing steps prior to delivery of fuel bundles to the nuclear plant, where the bundles are receipt-inspected prior to insertion in the reactor.
(1) Mining/milling. Purchase of uranium concentrates (U3O8) from a supplier who processes the material as follows: After mining, the uranium ore is shipped to a milling facility which extracts uranium concentrates by a chemical leaching process. After drying and further processing, the substance consists of about 90% uranium oxide compound (U3O8), which is referred to as yellow cake. In the nuclear fuel procurement process, the most options exist for the acquisition of yellow cake where many suppliers exist. A utility generally procures U3O8 (yellow cake) delivered to a preselected convertor.
(2) Conversion. The next step in the procurement process is the purchase of conversion services. Conversion is a chemical process where the U3O8 is further refined, impurities are extracted and in a series of additional steps the U3O8 is converted to natural uranium hexafluoride (UF6). Conversion services represent a very small component of the total cost of nuclear fuel.
(i) Natural UF6 is shipped to an enrichment facility where it is subjected to a process to increase the percentage of U-235 above that of the natural uranium. Enrichment is a complex, costly and energy intensive procedure.
(ii) Domestic facilities owned and operated by the United States Government enrich a major portion of uranium used by the worldwide commercial reactor industry. Enrichment is performed under contracts that are negotiated many years in advance of the actual work and are now typically based upon the actual reactor requirements at time of order placement.
(iii) New enrichment technologies are currently being developed. These technologies, if successfully demonstrated and licensed, may offer lower cost alternatives to that currently provided by the United States Government.
(4) Fabrication. Fabrication services usually include shipment of the enriched UF6 to the fabricator, where it is converted to solid (UO2) fuel pellets. The fuel pellets are loaded into hollow fuel rods made of a special zirconium alloy which are then assembled into fuel bundles for use in the reactor. Fuel assembly fabrication services have historically been provided by the manufacturer of the nuclear steam supply system. In most cases, however, other vendors are capable of performing fuel assembly services.
(5) Receipt/inspection. At the reactor site the fabricated fuel bundles shall be loaded, moved to the fuel floor and receipt/inspected prior to loading in the reactor in a predetermined sequence. The fuel is normally delivered 2 to 3 months before the reactor is shut down.
(b) The nuclear fuel procurement process for reload quantities of fuel bundles, excluding contract negotiations, from purchase of U3O8 through loading in the reactor normally requires between 15 months and 24 months to complete.
The provisions of this § 69.207 adopted March 29, 1991, effective May 30, 1991, 21 Pa.B. 1331.
This section cited in 52 Pa. Code § 69.201 (relating to general); 52 Pa. Code § 69.205 (relating to purchasing procedures); and 52 Pa. Code § 69.206 (relating to inventory management).
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