US-based BWX Technologies (BWXT) announced on 18 December that its TRISO nuclear fuel manufacturing restart activities are ahead of schedule. 

BWXT technicians are now producing uranium solutions for TRISO fuel as the company moves forward with its previously announced plans to restart its manufacturing line and increase capacity at its Lynchburg facility, a press release said. A uranium solution is one of the starting materials required for TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) coated kernel formation. The solution is produced by dissolving uranium-bearing materials in aqueous nitric acid solution. Batches of uranium solution with any enrichment class (including highly enriched uranium) can be blended to achieve the desired product enrichment, BWXT said.

“We’re very proud of how our employees have been working to get the line restarted,” said Joel Duling, president of BWXT Nuclear Operations Group. “While the vast majority of the production equipment is already in place, we have been making some equipment upgrades to prepare the line for what we anticipate will be consistent production runs in the future.” BWXT is restarting its existing TRISO fuel production capability and increasing its capacity to position the company to meet emergent client interests in the US Department of Defense microreactors, space reactors, and civil advanced reactors. By co-locating the TRISO production line with other existing uranium processing capabilities, BWXT has a vertically integrated facility capable of handling all TRISO-related needs from feedstock preparation through uranium recovery and purification.

BWXT is the only US company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment. As a participant in the US Office of Nuclear Energy’s Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) programme for more than 15 years, BWXT has developed the expertise to manufacture TRISO coated kernels for this unique application. And, under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Gas Reactor (AGR) Fuel Development Programme, BWXT has manufactured and certified TRISO coated kernels and fuel compacts in production-scale quantities.