NRC probe of NIST reactor fuel failure finds apparent violations

March 21, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
The NIST Center for Neutron Research in Gaithersburg, Md. (Photo: NIST)

In the 13 months since a fuel element failure triggered a scram of the research reactor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), the event and its causes have been scrutinized by both NIST and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Initial conclusions from an NRC special inspection released on March 16 confirm that while public health and safety was maintained during and after the event, and doses to reactor facility staff were well below regulatory limits, a safety limit was violated when the temperature of the fuel cladding of a single fuel element in the 20-MWt research reactor reached a temperature high enough to partially melt the element.

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