Lightbridge announces first U-Zr fuel rod samples extruded at INL

March 18, 2024, 3:12PMNuclear News
The extrusion in progress. (Photo: INL/Lightbridge)

Lightbridge Corporation announced today that it has reached “a critical milestone” in the development of its extruded solid fuel technology. Coupon samples using an alloy of zirconium and depleted uranium—not the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) that Lightbridge plans to use to manufacture its fuel for the commercial market—were extruded at Idaho National Laboratory’s Materials and Fuels Complex.

The extrusion process involves pressing a metallic alloy billet through a die. A video of the extrusion demonstration made available by Lightbridge captures the loading of a hot billet into the extrusion press and a close-up of the extruded rod.

Next steps: INL and Lightbridge will work together to analyze the extruded rod to confirm the extrusion process parameters prior to producing future fuel samples using HALEU. The work is part of a strategic partnership project and cooperative research and development agreements between Lightbridge and Battelle Energy Alliance, the operating contractor for INL.

INL is focused on producing irradiation performance data on thermophysical properties of Lightbridge’s delta-phase U-Zr alloy to support fuel performance modeling and licensing. According to Lightbridge, the fuel is designed to offer improved economics and higher levels of safety than conventional nuclear fuel.

Celebrating the milestone: “We are pleased to collaborate with Lightbridge in achieving this important milestone in their efforts to qualify Lightbridge fuel,” said Jess Gehin, INL associate laboratory director for nuclear science and technology. “This achievement demonstrates the unique role that national laboratories, particularly INL, play in nuclear innovation and keeping the U.S. as the global leader in nuclear energy.”

“Reaching this milestone is an important step in our ongoing work with INL,” said Scott Holcombe, vice president of engineering at Lightbridge. “Casting and extruding this demonstration billet of Lightbridge fuel alloy showcases the unique research talent and facilities within the lab’s Materials and Fuels Complex.”

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