That “performance trade-off” is why the U.S. Navy is not keen on low-enriched uranium. It’s an “inferior type of fuel” that means “basically less gas in the tank,” said Tom Shugart, a retired Navy officer who served as chief engineer aboard a nuclear-powered sub. “There are political benefits, and there are non-proliferation benefits. There is no benefit from a practical perspective.”
Shugart, now an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Defense program, noted that the Navy’s nuclear submarine program has always used HEU. It’s a “more power-dense source of fuel” that allows subs to be built around a “more compact reactor core,” he said. It is a major reason that the newer Virginia- and planned Columbia-class submarines will run their entire service life without refueling.
Read the full story and more from Defense One.