BWXT advancing microreactor design project

14 April 2022

US-based BWX Technologies is proceeding apace to deliver microreactors to commercial power and industrial customers in cooperation with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The company’s BANR (BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor) is a transportable microreactor using TRISO fuel and was selected to participate in the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). BWXT is focusing on aggressive cost reductions for deploying this transportable microreactor through performance improvements and lower delivery costs. Subsidiary BWXT Advanced Technologies (BWXT AT) has finalised its formal cost-sharing contracting with the DOE and is on track to deliver the first round of BANR’s TRISO fuel for testing at INL’s Advanced Test Reactor in 2024 as scheduled.

Testing at INL will provide important operational data on the performance of TRISO fuel particles. When complete, the project will have matured technologies related to key reactor safety systems in order to improve the overall economics for deployment, BWXT said.

This data is critical for approval by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and transition to deployment. BWXT AT is also partnered with ORNL for the development of advanced modelling and simulation tools and manufacturing processes.

“We’re making a lot of progress in this programme, and I’m very proud of the engineers and technicians who are keeping our reactor design and fuel development processes focused on deployment and stimulating demand in the advanced reactor market,” said Joe Miller, BWXT AT president. “Our collaboration with the national laboratories represents a longstanding commitment to delivering cutting-edge technologies that improve reactor performance and operation.”

The DOE Office of Nuclear Energy’s ARDP cost-share arrangement is designed to help domestic, private industry demonstrate commercially viable advanced nuclear reactors in the US. DOE expects to invest approximately $600 million over seven years in the ARDP’s risk reduction pathway.

TRistructural ISOtropic (TRISO) fuel can withstand extreme heat and has very low environmental risks. Each TRISO particle – about the size of the tip of a ball-point pen – carries its own layered containment system. Thousands of these particles are pressed into ‘compacts’ similar in size to a tube of lip balm. BWXT is the only US company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment.

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