The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) said on 6 April that Triga International had recently completed a major renovation project at its fuel fabrication facility in Romans, France. Triga International is a joint venture between General Atomics (GA) and CERCA, Framatome's subsidiary for the fabrication of fuel elements for research reactors.
The upgrades ensure the continued operation of 36 Triga reactors around the world, including 18 in the USA. Triga stands for Training, Research, Isotopes General Atomics. The reactors are primarily used for training students, various research projects and isotope production. DOE provided both technical and financial support for the project. Triga International is the only supplier of Triga fuel in the world. The company’s French facility required significant upgrades in order to keep up with current safety regulations. The facility was taken offline in 2014 to begin a seven-year, $80 million renovation project.
DOE provided nearly $16 million in support of the facility upgrades. The National Nuclear Security Administration provided $5 million in initial funding to perform feasibility studies and assist with the design, installation and removal of equipment. NE provided more than $10 million starting in 2015 to complete the work in order to get the production line up and running. The renovations were completed in March and the company is now awaiting approval from Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN – Nuclear Safety Authority) before the production of fuel can begin.
GA has installed a total of 66 Triga reactors at universities, government and industrial laboratories, and medical centres in 24 countries. Of the 18 Triga reactors operating in the USA, 12 are located at universities. The reactors operate at thermal power levels from less than 0.1 to 16 megawatts, and are pulsed to 22,000 megawatts. Triga reactors are used for radioisotope production, basic research on the properties of matter, and for education n and training.
DOE manages all the nuclear fuel that is provided to these reactors tat US universities hrough its Research Reactor Infrastructure programme within NE. DOE provided 76 lightly used Triga fuel elements to US research reactors during the renovation period to help meet immediate Triga fuel needs. DOE plans to order its first 55 new elements later this year. New fuel elements are expected to be available by the end of the year.
“Without these upgrades to the Triga International facility, the Triga reactors at these universities would be forced to shut down without a dependable supply of fuel,” said Doug Morrell, the manager for the Research Reactor Infrastructure programme. “Thanks to the support of DOE, our universities can continue conducting research and training our future nuclear energy workforce.”