The economic nature of the US commercial nuclear industry and the use of downblended HEU as reactor fuel
The ability of the nuclear industry to produce at a competitive price determines the resulting demand for nuclear power. In turn, the demand for nuclear power creates a demand for uranium that determines not only its present price, but also the amount of exploration for uranium and hence, the reserves of uranium available to be exploited at various prices. The questionable ability of commercial nuclear reactors to compete with other power generators in the US was directly affected by increases in the price of uranium. The costs of burning plutonium are usually compared with the costs of burning highly enriched uranium or low enriched uranium in reactors. Unlike other forms of power production, the nuclear power industry accumulates very significant decontamination and decommissioning costs at each plant. ‘Downblending’ is a procedure to de-enrich highly enriched uranium to make it useable as reactor fuel.