Uganda has a newer and perhaps a cheaper technology to choose in its nuclear ambitions with the emergence of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium
High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) is
gaining popularity in some of the developed countries as a less costly fuel for
putting up nuclear power plants. The current fleet of nuclear reactors
runs primarily on uranium fuel enriched up to 5% uranium-235
This fuel which comes as Uganda prepares
to build a nuclear power plant is particularly being fronted as most suited for
Small modular reactors (SMRs) of capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit.
Small modular reactors have a capacity
of about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power
reactors. SMRs are being preferred because they can produce a large amount of
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
this week highlighted the potential of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU)
in the deployment of nuclear energy technology.
“HALEU fuel will enable smaller designs,
longer operating cycles and increased efficiencies,” said Olena Mykolaichuk,
Director of the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology at the
“However, to reap the full benefits
of HALEU fuel, some countries are boosting production capacity to ensure that
sufficient supply is available, which will be critical for SMR deployment.”
At the UN Climate Change Conference in
Dubai, more than 22 countries called for a declaration to advance the
aspirational goal of tripling nuclear power capacity by 2050, as well as
statements by the
and the nuclear industry, underscoring the momentum building behind
the world’s second-largest source of clean electricity.
HALEU is produced in the Russian
Federation and the United States of America, mostly for use in research reactors
and for possible use in operating light water reactors.
The facility in Russia
is currently the only one that manufactures HALEU on a commercial scale.
became the first European country to launch a program for high-tech uranium so
the next generation of nuclear reactors are not dependent on imports from
Government allocated £300 million to develop high-assay low-enriched uranium (Haleu
) in a bid to cut Vladimir Putin out of the UK’s
future energy needs.Claire Coutinho, the Energy Secretary
, said: “We stood up
to Putin on oil and gas and financial markets; we won’t let him hold us to
ransom on nuclear fuel.
gave the world its first operational nuclear power plant, and now we will be
the first nation in Europe outside of Russia to produce advanced nuclear fuel.
will be critical for energy security at home and abroad and builds on Britain’s
historic competitive advantages.”
Meanwhile, the United StatesNuclear Regulatory Commission also authorized
the start-up of high-assay low-enriched uranium enrichment, or HALEU,
operations in Ohio. The authorization marked a critical first step in producing
advanced fuels for the next generation of nuclear reactors.
Last year, the Euratom Supply Agency
produced a report on the future fuel supply for Europe’s HALEU-converted, or soon-to-be-converted,
research reactors. Traditionally, Europe’s research reactors have been fuelled
by high enriched uranium.
The Euratom Supply Agency estimates
that, by 2035, the European Union will need between 700 kilograms and a ton of
HALEU each year to keep its research reactors in operation.
This estimate does not include any
future demand from advanced reactors used for power generation. Euratom
therefore recommends that the EU develop its own capacity to produce HALEU
fuel, due to concerns over the future security of supplies.
Nuclear power had been in decline since the Fukushima disaster
in Japan over ten years ago, but the International Energy Agency IEA) in a report
power and secure energy transitions: From today’s challenges to tomorrow’s
clean energy systems
2022 said it was making a comeback.
“In today’s context of the global energy
crisis, skyrocketing fossil fuel prices, energy security challenges, and
ambitious climate commitments, I believe nuclear power has a unique opportunity
to stage a comeback,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.
Nuclear features prominently in the Uganda
Energy Transition Plan which was launched in Dubai in December 2023. Uganda plans
to have its first 2000-megawatt nuclear power plant running by the end of 2031.
Some experts have opposed Uganda’s nuclear plant which will cost over nine billion
dollars to construct.
Some experts have suggested that even when
countries like Uganda are endowed with huge uranium deposits, they should
consider the deployment
of Small Modular Reactors (
crucial to recognize that both large and small reactors come with their own
advantages and disadvantages. Each country must carefully consider its unique
needs and circumstances when deciding which option to pursue. In the case of
Africa, financial, political, and infrastructure challenges hinder the adoption
of large-scale nuclear power plants,” said one report that URN has seen.
has another choice with the emergence of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium.
It takes between ten to fifteen years to
have a nuclear power plant up and running. Nuclear power is envisaged to
contribute to the electricity generation mix in Uganda by 2031.
Under the Nuclear Power Roadmap Development Strategy and Vision 2040 Uganda
hoped to have 30,000 Megawatts of nuclear power by 2026. AF-Consult
Switzerland in 2014 said Uganda would need to invest USD 26 billion to have an
installed capacity of 4,300 Megawatts of power from nuclear energy by
AF-Consult Switzerland estimates that Uganda would spend 744.8 trillion Shillings
in capital and operating costs if it is to generate 30,000 Megawatts from
nuclear as outlined in the Uganda Vision 2040.