Tests completed on new research reactor fuel

3 May 2017

Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) announced on 26 April completion of verification tests in the USA on a new plate-type uranium-molybdenum (U-Mo) fuel for research reactors intended to replace highly-enriched uranium (HEU) fuel in civil research reactors.

In 2012, Belgium, France, South Korea and the USA agreed to cooperate in the development of high-density low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel production technology using centrifugal atomisation technology developed by KAERI. The USA provided 110kg of LEU in June 2013 for KAERI to manufacture 100kg of atomised U-Mo powder. In January 2014, the powder was shipped to France for fabrication into fuel elements by Areva's research reactor fuel manufacturer CERCA. Testing of the experimental U-Mo fuel began in the Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory in October 2015.

KAERI said the results from the testing of the fuel will be used to obtain a construction licence for a new research reactor planned in Busan, which it hopes will be the first application for the U-Mo fuel. The U-Mo fuel has a higher level of uranium density than uranium-silicon fuel, so it can use LEU instead of HEU. The fuel can also improve the performance of research reactors, according to KAERI.

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