US-based nuclear fuel technology company Lightbridge Corporation on 16 October outlined its plans to conduct full irradiation testing of nuclear fuel samples under commercial operating conditions. The tests will be conducted in the pressurised water loop of the Halden research reactor in Norway.
On 2-3 October, Lightbridge representatives inspected the hardware components manufactured by the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) for the first irradiation rig. The rig is set to host a four-rod bundle of Lightbridge's quad-lobe fuel rods for irradiation in the Halden reactor. The design of the rig allows removal of partially irradiated fuel rods and insertion of new fuel rods to enable early collection of data from post-irradiation examination, Lightbridge said.
Lightbridge and IFE signed additional task orders for the design and fabrication of a second irradiation rig that would host another four-lobe bundle Lightbridge fuel rods. The new rig will be designed to constrain radial expansion of the four-rod bundle to simulate conditions inside an actual commercial fuel assembly.
On 12 October, Lightbridge announced that it had received a Notice of Allowance from the European Patent Office for an additional patent relating to its metallic fuel design. Seth Grae, Lightbridge President and CEO said the latest patent “adds to a robust patent portfolio in Europe and around the world, setting the stage for the launch of Lightbridge's joint venture with Areva NP”.
The new patent is based on Lightbridge's 2014 Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application and covers an alternative embodiment of a multi-lobe fuel rod design; an all-metal pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel assembly design incorporating multi-lobe fuel rods based on the alternative embodiment; and an all-metal PWR fuel assembly design incorporating multi-lobe fuel rods arranged into a mixed grid pattern, thereby covering the all-metal fuel assembly design after the most recent optimisation.
Photo: Mock-up of a Lightbridge metallic fuel rod for cold testing of the first irradiation rig (Credit: Lightbridge)