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US Navy Exploring Low-enriched Uranium Reactors

FILE - A general view shows the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman at an undisclosed position in the Mediterranean Sea.

The U.S. Navy has begun looking at the possibility of using low-enriched uranium in the nuclear reactors that power its submarines and aircraft carriers.

Currently, the reactors use highly-enriched uranium, but because of proliferation concerns, Congress commissioned studies about making the switch.

Two studies were done, one in 1995 and another in 2014. The first said “existing naval reactor designs are not conducive to using low enriched uranium due to the significant impact this would have on reactor lifetime, size, and ship costs.”

However, the second concluded that now, the potential exists to develop such an advanced fuel system.

So Congress directed the Navy and the Department of Energy to develop a “conceptual research and development plan for an advanced fuel system that could enable use of low enriched uranium in naval reactors.”