NRG said the aim of the tests is to demonstrate the safety of the fuel for the 20-year lifespan of Seattle-based USNC’s micro modular reactor. NRG said extensive pre- and post-irradiation tests at its hot cell laboratories will be part of the programme.
FCM fuel is a next-generation tristructural-Isotropic (Triso) particle fuel design, replacing the 50-year-old graphite matrix of traditional Triso fuel with silicon carbide, a material that is extremely resistant to radiation and thermal damage.
The SiC matrix in FCM fuel provides a dense, gas-tight barrier, preventing the escape of fission products even if a Triso particle should rupture during operation. The result is a safer nuclear fuel that can withstand higher temperatures and more radiation.
NRG said the higher-thermal conductivity of FCM fuel allows the fuel pellet to have a flatter temperature profile, lowering peak temperatures in nuclear reactors. Unlike conventional nuclear fuels, FCM fuel achieves full-fission product containment across a wide range of temperatures that include operating and failure conditions.
USNC’s micro modular reactor is a 15 MW thermal, five MW electrical high-temperature gas-cooled system with a design that draws on operational experience from reactors developed by China, Germany, Japan and the US. USNC has said it hopes to build and operate a unit by 2026.
The plant consists of two systems: a nuclear plant that generates heat and a power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications. It uses fuel in prismatic graphite blocks and has a sealed transportable core.
The micro modular reais at an advanced licensing stage at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Chalk River Laboratories campus in Ontario. The project is a collaboration between USNC and Ontario Power Generation through jointly owned Global First Power Limited Partnership .
Last month, Global First Power’s application for a licence to prepare a site for an MMR at Chalk River moved to the technical review phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's licensing process.