A novel method to 3D print components for nuclear reactors, developed by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been licensed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC).
The technology uses a sophisticated additive manufacturing technique to print refractory materials, which are resistant to extreme heat and degradation, into components with complex shapes needed for advanced nuclear reactor designs.
“This technology is ideal for manufacturing structure and core components for USNC’s advanced reactor designs,” said Kurt Terrani, USNC executive vice president.
Terrani joined USNC from ORNL where he was technical director of the lab’s Transformational Challenge Reactor program, leveraging expertise at the lab’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility with leadership in nuclear technology to pilot the concept of 3D printing components for energy applications.
USNC’s refractory material of choice for nuclear reactor core components is silicon carbide, a high-temperature-resistant ceramic that has been tested and proven to be radiation tolerant. However, traditional machining of silicon carbide into parts for a reactor are so time-intensive and expensive that it’s nearly impossible.
The ORNL-developed alternative combines binder jet printing as the additive manufacturing technique and a ceramic production process called chemical vapor infiltration, which will allow USNC to make components more efficiently with desired complex shapes, such as fluid channels in a heat exchanger.
“This is the holy grail of additive, that you can do things faster, that are in geometries that were previously very difficult or impossible with conventional manufacturing methods,” Terrani said.
Seattle-based USNC also announced plans to expand its operations into East Tennessee to take advantage of proximity to ORNL’s expertise while scaling up production of specialty components.
USNC said its new Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility will be located at the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge.
“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with ORNL,” said Francesco Venneri, chief executive officer of USNC. “Proximity to the lab and its world-class scientists and facilities allow us easy access to expertise in reactor core technologies and additive manufacturing, as well as the latest in radiation, fuels and materials research, all of which benefit USNC’s commitment to bring safe, reliable and secure nuclear energy to world markets.” USNC and ORNL also signed a Memorandum of Understanding in September on advanced nuclear fuel and reactor development activities.
Ultra Safe Nuclear has licensed ORNL method to 3D print advanced reactor components