advanced nuclear fuel pellets produced by Texas A&M University. Source: Clean Core Thorium EnergyUS Centrus Energy Corp President and CEO Daniel B Poneman on 14 December congratulated Clean Core Thorium Energy and Texas A&M on fabricating the first sample pellets of a next-generation nuclear fuel called ANEEL (Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life).

Centrus and Clean Core have been working together under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed earlier this year to promote Clean Core’s advanced nuclear fuel, which will combine thorium with High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) produced by Centrus.

Based on more than 15 years of research and design, the new HALEU-Thorium ANEEL fuel is suitable for new and existing Candu and other Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). ANEEL can reduce the amount of waste produced in Candus/PHWRs by more than 80%, minimising waste management costs and safety concerns, while offering non-proliferation benefits.

The largest fleet of such reactors is in Canada, where 19 Candu PHWRs with a capacity of nearly 14 million kilowatts supply 15% of the country’s electricity, Centrus noted. Since these reactors currently operate on unenriched natural uranium, they would potentially represent a new market for Centrus as well as Clean Core Thorium Energy.

“Producing the first ANEEL test pellets is an important step forward in the development of this new, advanced nuclear fuel,” said  Poneman. “With a large fleet of PHWR reactors already operating in Canada and elsewhere, ANEEL could both accelerate and expand early demand for HALEU in the next few years. We value our partnership with Clean Core to support the commercialisation of ANEEL and look forward to the opportunity to become their long-term HALEU supplier.”

Mehul Shah, CEO of Clean Core Thorium Energy, said: “Working with Centrus Energy to promote our ANEEL advanced nuclear fuel will help bring clean, reliable power within reach for emerging countries that need it. Our innovative technology using thorium and HALEU offers tremendous cost savings, safety, and non-proliferation benefits for CANDU/PHWR-type nuclear power plants.” 

Clean Core plans to test and qualify ANEEL fuel at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) next year and expects to commercialise the fuel by late 2024. Texas A&M University’s Nuclear Engineering and Science Centre has fabricated the ANEEL fuel samples under quality requirements and supervision of INL.

Under the MOU signed earlier this year, Clean Core and Centrus are collaborating to promote the use of ANEEL advanced nuclear fuel in Candu reactors around the world, together with other PHWRs. While the initial test pellets being fabricated by Texas A&M are using a small quantity of HALEU supplied by INL, Clean Core Thorium Energy plans to use HALEU from Centrus for commercial-scale production of ANEEL fuel.

Under a three-year contract signed with the US Department of Energy in 2019, Centrus is constructing the first NRC-licensed HALEU production line in Piketon, Ohio.  Centrus said it has met every contract milestone to date and is continuing its work under the contract.

Photo: Advanced nuclear fuel pellets produced by Texas A&M University. Source: Clean Core Thorium Energy