A significant tool in America's non-proliferation effort, NFS' patented HEU-to-LEU conversion technology is now considered the best available technology for eliminating HEU as a potential target of terrorists when compared to long-term storage in a government-owned facility or burial.
The process was envisioned at the end of the Cold War by NFS and was brought to life through an historic project for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the late 1990s. Termed the Blended Low Enriched Uranium (BLEU) Project, its successful completion saves $500 million to American taxpayers when compared to disposal of the HEU alone. The U.S. government deeded the HEU to TVA for conversion into LEU fuel material for its commercial reactors, also saving TVA rate payers significant dollars when compared to purchasing conventional reactor fuel.
The value added in the uranium enrichment process originally used to manufacture the surplus HEU is enormous. Rather than bury this investment, the project has converted 33 metric tons of the material into 1.2 million pounds of useful LEU to produce electrical power. TVA saved millions of dollars on the purchase of LEU fuel by "reusing" existing stockpiles of HEU rather than purchasing new LEU fuel material that has been enriched from natural uranium by conventional methods for its commercial reactors. The project helped TVA to maintain some of the lowest electrical power rates in the nation for its ratepayers.
The project has provided an amount of electrical power for U.S. households and businesses as 800,000 rail car loads of coal that would be burned in coal-fired power generation facilities. The environmental and natural resource "savings" are enormous.
For the region, the BLEU Project represents a $150 million investment. The two facilities required for the project maintains a workforce of about 130.
The "downblending" process is also utilized for other client projects to provide LEU material for use in commercial reactors or as a strategic reserve of fuel for America.