A first: TRISO fuel made in Canada

April 22, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
Fully ceramic microencapsulated fuel. Image: USNC

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.

Niger’s Akouta uranium mine ceases operations

April 5, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Miners depart Niger’s Akouta uranium mine for the last time after production ended for good. Photo: Cominak

The Akouta mine in Niger stopped production on March 31 after 43 years of service and 75,000 metric tons of uranium extracted. Akouta, the largest underground uranium mine in the world, was operated by Cominak, a subsidiary of Orano. The shutdown was decided by Cominak’s board of directors on October 23, 2019, in response to the depletion of the mine’s deposit.

Uranium conversion facility to reopen

February 11, 2021, 3:03PMNuclear News

The Metropolis Works plant. Photo: Honeywell

Honeywell plans to resume production at its Metropolis Works uranium conversion facility in 2023 and will begin preparations for the restart this year, the company has announced. The plant is in Metropolis, Ill.

Honeywell, based in Charlotte, N.C., said in a February 9 statement that it plans to hire 160 full-time employees, as well as contractors, by the end of 2022, adding, “We’re proud to bring these jobs back to the Metropolis community to meet the needs of our customers.”

Idled in early 2018, the plant is the nation’s sole uranium conversion facility.

Framatome declares ATF test at Vogtle a success

February 8, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

The $111.2 million in financial assistance awarded by the Department of Energy in late 2018 to nuclear fuel developers Framatome, General Electric, and Westinghouse for the development of accident tolerant fuel has yielded some encouraging results.

Framatome reports that the first 18-month fuel cycle test of its GAIA Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) technology, conducted at Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle-2, has “demonstrated expected results and excellent performance.”

And last month, Westinghouse announced that the topical report on its Advanced Doped Pellet Technology fuel has been accepted for review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, calling the decision “a major achievement for the advanced fuel portfolio Westinghouse is developing.”

Report finds uranium resources sufficient for foreseeable future

January 7, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

Adequate uranium resources exist to support the long-term, sustainable use of nuclear energy for low-carbon electricity generation, as well as for other applications, including hydrogen production. That assessment is contained in the latest (28th) edition of Uranium—Resources, Production and Demand, a global, biennial reference prepared jointly by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The publication adds, however, that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent reductions in uranium production and exploration could affect available supplies, suggesting that timely investment in innovative mining and processing techniques would help assure that uranium resources are brought to market when needed.

First fuel shipment for Vogtle-3 delivered

December 14, 2020, 9:35AMNuclear News

Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power has announced the receipt of the initial shipment of nuclear fuel for Vogtle-3, characterizing the event as a “major step” for the two-unit nuclear expansion project currently under way at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro, Ga.

Next step: With the receipt of the first nuclear fuel assemblies, the project is now focused on one of the major milestones for Unit 3, hot functional testing, the last critical step before fuel load and, ultimately, in-service operation, Georgia Power said.

In October, Vogtle plant operator Southern Nuclear announced a readjustment of its July 2020 “aggressive site schedule” dates for Unit 3 hot functional testing, fuel load, and commercial operation. The dates were moved from October 2020, December 2020, and May 2021, respectively, to January 2021, April 2021, and the third quarter of 2021. Southern Nuclear said that hot functional testing could start as late as the end of March 2021 and fuel load as late as mid-year 2021 without jeopardizing Vogtle-3’s November 2021 regulatory approved in-service date.

ORNL to examine irradiated accident tolerant fuel assemblies

December 7, 2020, 12:02PMNuclear News

An accident tolerant fuel experiment developed by Global Nuclear Fuel arrives at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for testing. Photo: ORNL

Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) has announced that irradiated lead test assemblies of its IronClad and ARMOR accident tolerant fuel (ATF) have been delivered to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for examination. The unfueled IronClad rods and fueled ARMOR rods, the first ATF samples to be installed in a commercial reactor, completed a 24-month fuel cycle at the Hatch nuclear plant near Baxley, Ga., in February and were shipped to ORNL in early November.

The test samples, manufactured at GNF’s facility in Wilmington, N.C., are part of an industry-led effort with the Department of Energy to commercialize new fuels that could help boost the performance and economics of U.S. reactors within the decade. Framatome and Westinghouse are also involved in the DOE’s ATF program.

According to GNF’s December 3 announcement, ORNL’s examination of the samples will include visual inspections, microscopy, and measurements of the thickness, corrosion, and other mechanical and material properties of the cladding. These data, GNF said, will be used to determine the performance benefits of the materials and support the licensing of new fuel technologies with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy noted in a December 4 press release that initial visual inspections of the test samples showed no visible signs of flaws or degradation on either of the assemblies.

BWXT restarts TRISO fuel manufacturing

November 12, 2020, 9:39AMNuclear News

BWX Technologies Inc. announced on November 10 that its BWXT Nuclear Operations Group Inc. (BWXT NOG) subsidiary has completed its TRISO nuclear fuel line restart project and is actively producing fuel at its Lynchburg, Va., facility.

With the restart, BWXT now manufactures fuel across four commercial and government business lines, the company said. In addition to the TRISO line, BWXT operates fuel production lines at BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada, manufacturer of approximately half of the fuel powering the commercial reactor fleet in Ontario, Canada; BWXT subsidiary Nuclear Fuel Services, sole provider of nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy; and BWXT’s Uranium Processing and Research Reactors operation, the only North American supplier of research reactor fuel elements for colleges, universities, and national laboratories.