The US Senate’s third-ranking member has challenged the Department of Energy’s decision to award a $115 million no-bid contract to Centrus Energy to demonstrate a uranium enrichment process and produce a small quantity of a little-used fuel for the agency’s advanced reactor R&D program.

DOE says Centrus is the only company capable of producing so-called high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) by 2020 while adhering to US policy requiring that enrichment for military consumption be performed with US-origin technology. In a 23 January letter to Energy secretary Rick Perry, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), who chairs the Committee on Environment and Public Works, asked Perry to explain why US-origin policy should apply to HALEU, which contains up to 19.75% of the fissionable uranium-235 isotope.

Barrasso, whose state has the most uranium reserves in the US, said the contract “appears to use American taxpayer funding to bailout Centrus, an unsuccessful business that relies on...

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