US-based nuclear fuel technology company Lightbridge Corporation has completed work under the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) voucher programme to support development of Lightbridge Fuel, in collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
The scope of the project included the design of an experiment for the irradiation of Lightbridge metallic fuel material samples in the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at INL. Together, the Lightbridge and INL teams established the test plan for the measurement of key thermophysical properties of Lightbridge Fuel material both before and after irradiation in the ATR. From there, INL performed a detailed design and established the safety case needed for insertion of the experiment in the ATR. This included the control of parameters such as sample enrichment, thermal-hydraulic capacity, maximum sample temperature, neutron fluence, and the physical location of test capsules within the ATR.
The next step in the testing programme is to contract for the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) material and fabrication of the sample coupons for insertion into the ATR. Lightbridge’s goal is to have the experiment available for insertion into the ATR when its core internal change out maintenance outage is completed. The actual experiment insertion is subject to the final duration of the outage, the availability of testing positions in the ATR and INL's prior commitments for testing. Once the required burn up is achieved in the ATR, post-irradiation testing is planned.
Dr Jess Gehin, chief scientist for the Nuclear Science and Technology directorate at INL commented, “As the nation’s centre for nuclear energy research and development, INL is proud to work with private sector companies such as Lightbridge to further the DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. We look forward to the continued development of Lightbridge Fuel, along with opportunities to work together with Lightbridge in the future.”
Lightbridge President and CEO Seth Grae said the announcement “marks a major milestone achievement for Lightbridge, which makes the design and safety case for Lightbridge Fuel samples to be tested in the Advanced Test Reactor at INL”.