Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced last week that it has fabricated fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel pellets, a proprietary reactor fuel designed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) for its Micro Modular Reactor (MMR). The FCM project, funded through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), represents the first time that tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel has been manufactured in Canada, according to CNL.
“The successful fabrication of this innovative fuel design represents a major milestone for SMR research here in Canada and demonstrates that CNL has the necessary expertise and capabilities to help move these advanced fuels from concept to reality,” said Joe McBrearty, CNL’s president and chief executive officer. “I’m thrilled that we were able to collaborate with USNC on this work through the CNRI program, a program designed to help SMR vendors gain access to our expertise in order to help advance the development and commercialization of their unique technologies.”
Mark Mitchell, president of USNC-Power, added, “This achievement demonstrates the readiness of the FCM technology for deployment and furthers Canada’s position as a leading innovator in the nuclear industry.”
Pellet power: USNC’s FCM pellet design consists of spherical TRISO particles dispersed in a matrix of silicon carbide. The particles contain a dense fuel kernel coated with layers of graphite and silicon carbide, rendering them robust and capable of withstanding intense heat and pressure, according to CNL. TRISO fuels have been proposed for a number of new small and advanced reactor designs currently under consideration in Canada.
Showing initiative: CNL’s CNRI program was launched in 2019 to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling research and development and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within CNL. The FCM project is part of a broader portfolio of work between CNL and USNC that includes the establishment of a functional laboratory for fuel analysis at CNL’s Chalk River campus in Ontario. The work also includes the development of a multiyear testing program to support the validation of USNC’s fuel and core as they progress through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s vendor design review process.
USNC, along with Ontario Power Generation, is a key partner in Global First Power, the organization proposing to construct and operate an MMR at Chalk River. Licensing activities for the MMR project have begun, and an environmental assessment is currently underway.