Research & Development

Fuel Tests / NRG To Begin Irradiation Programme For USNC’s Micro Reactor

By David Dalton
24 June 2021

NRG To Begin Irradiation Programme For USNC’s Micro Reactor
USNC has said it hopes to build and operate its first micro modular reactor unit by 2026. Courtesy USNC/NRG.
Netherlands-based NRG is to carry out a programme of irradiation tests on Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s (USNC) proprietary fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel at the high flux reactor in Petten.

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.

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