US-based Lightbridge Corp has signed a joint development agreement with Areva NP for fuel assemblies for Lightbridge’s next generation metallic nuclear fuel technology. The companies will work towards establishing a joint venture (JV) in 2016 to develop, manufacture and commercialise the fuel assemblies. They will share the cost of the work scope to be performed under the agreement, with Areva NP contributing in-kind for its share of the costs.

As part of the JV, Areva NP and Lightbridge will agree on terms and conditions to complete the remaining work to demonstrate and commercialise the fuel assemblies based on Lightbridge’s metallic nuclear fuel, and a technology licensing arrangement and other agreements needed to form and operate the JV company. The agreement will remain in force until the formation of the JV or December 31, 2016 at the latest.

Lightbridge president and CEO Seth Grae said Areva "has the resources and expertise to enable global deployment of our metallic fuel in commercial reactors". He added that the Nuclear Utility Fuel Advisory Board – comprising nuclear fuel and regulatory experts from Dominion Resources, Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Duke Energy, and Exelon Generation – have requested that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission prepare to receive initial regulatory licensing documentation in 2017.

In a separate statement, Lightbridge provided an update on its nuclear fuel commercialization plan as well as a business update and its financial results for 2015. In addition to its agreement with Areva, it has concluded an initial services agreement it has entered into with BWXT Nuclear Energy "to evaluate the ability to fabricate and prepare a preliminary plan" for fabrication of Lightbridge-designed partial length nuclear fuel samples at BWXT facilities in the USA. Others developments include the Institute for Energy Technology’s receipt of formal regulatory approval from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority for all planned irradiation of Lightbridge’s metallic fuel at the Halden research reactor in Norway, which is expected to begin in 2017. In addition, four of the biggest US NPP operators "continue to advise" Lightbridge on its nuclear fuel programme, and recently expanded support to include expert technical advice on regulatory licensing activities.

Grae said: "Not only have we met all the key fuel development milestones that were set for the year but we also have exceeded our expectations in terms of progress toward commercial deployment of our metallic fuel into the market. Our original goal was to have a commercial fuel manufacturing arrangement in place in late 2017 or 2018, but current progress may lead to a final long-term commercial arrangement with one or more fuel manufacturers well ahead of schedule."

For the year ended 31 December 2015, Lightbridge’s net loss was $4.3m, compared with a net loss the previous year of $3.7m. The company’s cash flows used in operating activities last year were $3.7m against $4.3m in 2014, a decrease of about 14%.