BWX Technologies has announced the successful formation and sintering of uranium oxycarbide (UCO) fuel kernels that, once coated, will make up the fissile core of TRISO (tristructural isotropic) fuel particles. With that process demonstrated, BWXT has shifted the focus of its TRISO production restart to bringing two more furnaces online—an additional sintering furnace, used to apply heat and pressure to a solid fuel kernel, and a coating furnace.
Keeping to plan: In late 2019, BWXT produced uranium solutions for TRISO fuel in line with its previously announced plans to restart a TRISO nuclear fuel manufacturing line and increase capacity at its Lynchburg, Va., facility (NN, Nov. 2019, p. 48). The company reported on April 21 that restart activities are progressing ahead of schedule.
“BWXT has been working expeditiously to complete our preparations to restart our TRISO line and produce TRISO fuel at scale,” said Joel Duling, president of BWXT Nuclear Operations Group, Inc. “I can’t say enough about how well our employees have performed to get us to this stage and position us to finish our restart efforts later this year, even in the face of recent challenges across the globe.”
Pandemic impacts: BWXT facilities are operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. BWXT President and Chief Executive Officer Rex Geveden explained in an April 8 press release that BWXT had been deemed an essential business in both the United States and Canada and that all 12 of the company’s major operating facilities were open.
“We have been acutely focused on protecting the health and safety of our employees,” Geveden said. “We updated policies to ensure appropriate benefits are in place for employees who may become ill or need to self-quarantine for other reasons, including travel and suspected exposures. We have also implemented a number of measures to protect our workers, including shift staggering, social distancing, and modification of food services, among many others. And to the maximum extent possible, our employees are working remotely.”