Romanian institute to assess Lightbridge fuel for Candu reactors

20 October 2023

US fuel technology company Lightbridge Corporation has engaged Romania’s Institutul de Cercetari Nucleare Pitesti (ICN Pitesti), a subsidiary of Regia Autonoma Tehnologii pentru Energia Nucleara (RATEN ICN) to undertake an engineering study to assess the suitability of Lightbridge Fuel for use in Candu reactors. This assessment will cover key areas including mechanical design, neutronics analysis, and thermal and thermal-hydraulic evaluations. The results will guide future economic evaluations and support potential regulatory licensing.

Daniela Diaconu, Scientific Deputy Director of ICN Pitesti, said the engineering study “is in line with our mission of supporting the development of technologies that ensure national scientific and technical support in the field of nuclear power and contributes to sustaining international cooperation”.

Lightbridge President & CEO Seth Grae said the study would help to assess the viability of using Lightbridge Fuel in a Candu reactor, which “will help guide our commercialisation pathway in determining the types of reactors that we prioritise”. He added:

“The distinctive design of Candu reactors, such as the smaller dimensions of Candu fuel rods and shorter irradiation time of the fuel in the core as well as their unique refuelling process highlight their potential appeal. Positive confirmation from this engineering study potentially will provide us with the opportunity to expedite our commercialisation timelines.”

Lightbridge is developing fuels for light water reactors and pressurised heavy water reactors, as well as for small modular reactors. Lightbridge Fuel technology features metallic fuel rods with a helical multi-lobe design intended to significantly enhance reactor safety, economics, and proliferation resistance.

The company in December 2022 signed two long-term framework agreements with Battelle Energy Alliance, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The initial phase of work will culminate in irradiation testing of fuel samples using enriched uranium supplied by DOE in INL's Advanced Test Reactor (ATR). This will provide performance data for Lightbridge's delta-phase uranium-zirconium alloy to support fuel performance modelling and regulatory licensing efforts for the commercial deployment of Lightbridge Fuel. Subsequent work will include post-irradiation examination of the irradiated fuel samples, loop radiation testing in the ATR, and post-irradiation examination of one or more uranium-zirconium fuel rodlets, as well as transient experiments in INL's Transient Reactor Test Facility.

DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) programme has twice selected Lightbridge for awards over the past several years. Lightbridge is also participating in two university-led studies through the DOE Nuclear Energy University Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University. The company has an extensive worldwide patent portfolio.

Image: Dr Constantin Paunoiu, Director of Institutul de Cercetari Nucleare Pitesti, and Dr Andrey Mushakov, Lightbridge’s Executive Vice President, Nuclear Operations at the signing ceremony

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