Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced on 13 April that it has fabricated Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel pellets, an advanced and proprietary reactor fuel designed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) for their Micro Modular Reactor (MMR). The project was funded through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) and marks the first time that a Tristructural-Isotropic (TRISO) based fuel has been manufactured in Canada. The CNRI programme, launched in 2019, aims to help small modular reactor (SMR) vendors gain access to CNL expertise in order to help advance the development and commercialisation of their technologies.
“The successful fabrication of this innovative fuel design represents a major milestone for SMR research here in Canada, and demonstrates that CNL has the necessary expertise and capabilities to help move these advanced fuels from concept to reality,” commented Joe McBrearty, CNL’s President and CEO.
“Collaborating with CNL in achieving this milestone is a significant step towards enabling Canadian production of FCM fuel for use in our Micro Modular Reactors,” said USNC Power President Mark Mitchell. “This achievement demonstrates the readiness of the FCM technology for deployment and furthers Canada's position as a leading innovator in the nuclear industry.”
USNC’s FCM pellet design consists of spherical TRISO particles dispersed in a matrix of silicon carbide. The TRISO particles have a layered structure with a dense fuel kernel, which are then coated with layers of graphite and silicon carbide making the particles incredibly robust and able to withstand intense heat and pressure. For these reasons, TRISO fuels are proposed for a number of new small and advanced reactor designs currently under consideration in Canada.
“As the first project launched through the CNRI programme, it’s exciting to see this advanced fuel design come to life, and to help USNC fully explore the viability of this promising fuel technology,” commented Jeff Griffin, CNL’s Vice-President of Science and Technology. “CNL continues to invest in our advanced fuel fabrication facilities and equipment, and to further expand the fuel services we offer, to help advance these technologies towards deployment here in Canada.”
The FCM project is part of a broader portfolio of work between CNL and USNC that includes the establishment of a functional laboratory for fuel analysis at CNL’s Chalk River campus. The work also includes the development of a multi-year testing programme to support the validation of USNC’s fuel and core as they progress through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC’s) Vendor Design Review process. USNC, along with Ontario Power Generation, is a key partner in Global First Power, the organisation proposing to construct and operate a SMR at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Chalk River Laboratories campus in Ontario. The MMR project has begun licensing activities with CNSC, and an Environmental Assessment is currently underway.