Uranium & Fuel

Triso / BWXT Announces Start Of Production At Virginia Facility

By David Dalton
16 November 2020

BWXT Announces Start Of Production At Virginia Facility
Cross-section of a Triso nuclear fuel pellet. Courtesy Idaho National Laboratory.
BWX Technologies announced that its BWXT Nuclear Operations Group subsidiary has completed its Triso nuclear fuel line restart project and is now producing fuel at its Lynchburg facility in the state of Virginia.

The restart of the Triso line means BWXT as the only company in the US that is executing production contracts for Triso fuel.

BWXT is the only US company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment.

In June 2020, BWXT announced a contract with the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory to expand BWXT’s Triso manufacturing capacity and produce a demonstration quantity of the fuel.

The project is jointly funded by the US Department of Defence and NASA, with overall programme management provided by the DoD.

In 2019 BWXT said expansion of its Triso fuel production capability will position it to meet “emergent client interests” in DoD microreactors, space reactors, and Generation IV civil advanced reactors. Triso fuel can withstand extreme heat and has very low proliferation concerns and environmental risks, BWXT said.

In March 2020, BWXT announced a contract with the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to demonstrate capability to manufacture Triso nuclear fuel to support the development of the Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR). The scope of the contract includes the fabrication and delivery of uranium kernels, Triso coated surrogate materials, and Triso coated uranium kernels for a demonstration batch.

The TCR is a DOE programme led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory with support from Argonne and Idaho National Laboratory. The intent is to research and develop advanced nuclear energy system designs.

Triso, a shortened form of the term Tristructural-Isotropic, refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel. Tristructural refers to the layers of coatings surrounding the uranium fuel, and Isotropic refers to the coatings having uniform materials characteristics in all directions so that fission products are essentially retained.

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