USNC to test its fuel in NRG’s Petten reactor

24 June 2021

Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announced on 22 June that it has begun working with the Nuclear Research & Consultancy Group (NRG) from the Netherlands. NRG will implement a programme to analyse performance and safety attributes of the company’s proprietary Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCMTM) fuel designed for use in its Micro Modular Reactor (MMRTM).

Irradiation tests will be conducted by NRG on the behaviour of FCM fuel in its High Flux Reactor (HFR) in Petten. The goal of the programme is to demonstrate the safety of FCM fuel for the 20-year lifespan of the Ultra Safe Nuclear MMR. Testing will be done through a two-stage irradiation process. Extensive pre- and post-irradiation tests at the Hot Cell Laboratories will be part of the programme as well.

"NRG has been supporting the nuclear power industry since 1955 and has extensive experience performing complex irradiations and meeting the strenuous requirements of our clients for successful nuclear technology development," said Vinod Ramnandanlal, Commercial Director of NRG. "Innovative Generation IV reactors truly have transformative potential and Ultra Safe Nuclear has a leading design."

FCM is a next-generation TRISO particle fuel design, replacing the 50-year-old graphite matrix of traditional TRISO fuel with silicon carbide (SiC), a material that is extremely resistant to radiation and thermal damage. The SiC matrix in FCM fuel provides a dense, gas-tight barrier, preventing the escape of fission products even if a TRISO particle should rupture during operation. The result is a safer nuclear fuel that can withstand higher temperatures and more radiation.

The higher-thermal conductivity of FCM fuel allows the fuel pellet to have a flatter temperature profile, lowering peak temperatures in nuclear reactors. Unlike conventional nuclear fuels, FCM fuel achieves full-fission product containment across a wide range of temperatures that include operating and failure conditions.

"Qualification of our FCM fuel by NRG will constitute a significant step in realising our vision for the MMR and carbon-free power generation," said USNC CEO Francesco Venneri. "NRG has the technical prowess and credibility to test our fuel and we fully expect them to confirm the finding of our internal testing."

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