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Britain's Attempts to Edge Russia Out of High Assay Uranium Market Unlikely to Succeed

© Sputnik / Alexander Kryazhev / Go to the mediabankUranium dioxide fuel pellet manufacturing site at Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant
Uranium dioxide fuel pellet manufacturing site at Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.05.2024
London has announced its intent to construct the first “high-tech nuclear fuel facility in Europe” that would produce high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), in what appears to be a bid to create competition for Russia, which currently dominates the market.
The UK has awarded some £196 million ($245 million) to joint British-Dutch-German nuclear fuel consortium Urenco to build a nuclear fuel facility in England's Cheshire.
According to a statement by the British government, the move was made to “build a secure global uranium supply chain free from Russian influence.”
It will take quite some time, however, for London to achieve the results it desires, said Alexey Anpilogov, a political scientist and expert in the field of nuclear energy who observed that it took the United States some four years to produce the first 20 kilograms of HALEU after launching a similar initiative back in 2019.
He noted that the Cheshire plant is expected to produce its first batch of HALEU only in 2031, and by that time “a lot is going to change on the market.”
“I don’t think that Russia is going to sit idle,” he said, adding that the plants owned and operated by Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom will likely continue to further improve their HALEU production technology, ensuring high quality and low cost of their product.
A Russian national flag and flags with the logo of Rosatom flutters at the construction site of a cooling tower at the Kursk II nuclear power plant near the village of Makarovka outside Kurchatov, Kursk region - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2024
US Firms' Push to Continue Purchasing Russian Uranium Predictable - Expert
Furthermore, Anpilogov pointed out that the United States and Britain will likely focus on their own respective HALEU markets, which are not particularly large since both countries are “experiencing difficulties” with the development of the reactors that would use the high-assay low-enriched uranium.
“Meanwhile, Russia will have some serious contracts all over the world where Rosatom is actively conducting an expansion in the nuclear sphere,” he remarked. “These are the countries of that very Global South: it’s China and India, it is other countries that are now considering nuclear power. And I don’t think that the US and Britain would have it easy there in terms of manufacturing costs and in terms of making connections in areas where Rosatom already has very serious contacts.”
Anpilogov also observed that Britain has its work cut out, considering that London does not have a sufficient domestic source of uranium, not to mention that the UK has no prior experience in HALEU production and will have to start from scratch.
Finally, when all is said and done, the “British uranium” would be in for a “long and hard struggle on the global market,” he added.
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