US-based TRIGA International has begun fabricating fuel for the US Department of Energy’s MARVEL microreactor project at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), according to DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. DOE awarded the $8.4m contract to TRIGA International, a joint venture between Framatome and General Atomics, in November 2023. The first shipment of fuel is expected to be delivered in spring 2025.

Framatome’s dedicated TRIGA manufacturing facility at CERCA Romans, France, was selected to fabricate this fuel in line with the schedule of the MARVEL project. The contract is for 37 TRIGA fuel elements similar to the TRIGA fuel used in university reactors for research and hands-on training.

“Securing the fuel for the MARVEL microreactor project addresses a primary technical challenge,” said Dr John Jackson, the national technical director for DOE’s microreactor programme. “The initiation of fuel fabrication represents another tangible step toward making this exciting test platform a reality.”

MARVEL achieved 90% final design last year. The sodium-potassium-cooled microreactor is designed to generate 85 kWt and will be built inside INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility with future plans to connect it to a microgrid. The DOE microreactor programme plans to submit MARVEL’s preliminary safety analysis report for review later this summer as part of the DOE authorisation process.

The project will be used to help industry partners demonstrate microreactor applications, evaluate systems for remote monitoring, and develop autonomous control technologies for new reactors. The project is also testing a full-scale, non-electric prototype of the reactor in Pennsylvania to gather data on the system’s coolant flow and power generation to ensure the reactor will perform as expected. Fuel loading for MARVEL is expected in 2026, with the microreactor scheduled to be online by 2027.