France nuclear fuel company Orano and Europe-based uranium enrichment company Urenco have signed a consortium agreement to test and develop the new 30B-X cylinder designed to transport uranium enriched up to 20%. The 30B-X cylinder is used as part of the DN30-X packaging system.

This new cylinder is designed in anticipation of future use of fuel consisting of uranium enriched to a level of 6% uranium-235 (low enriched uranium + – LEU+) and to up to 20% (High-Assay, Low Enriched Uranium – HALEU). These fuels are required for the new Small Modular Reactor (SMR) and advanced reactor designs. However, they are not yet available on the market.

This DN30-X packaging combines the properties of the existing DN30 overpack with the new 30B-X cylinder into which is inserted the Criticality Control System (CCS), which uses control rods with neutrophilic characteristics to ensure transport safety.

Two versions of the 30B-X cylinder are available for optimized transport capacity depending on the level of uranium enrichment, with a different number of CCS control rods: one model with a capacity of 1,460 kg of uranium enriched up to 10%, and a second with a capacity of 1,271 kg of uranium enriched up to 20%.

The DN30-X package was licensed in March 2023 by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Licensing in France is in progress and is expected in 2024. Orano says licensing for other countries will follow upon request.

In parallel to licensing in France, two prototypes of the 30B-X cylinder were delivered to two enrichment facilities for testing of the integration of the cylinders into their plant processes – at a Urenco enrichment site and at Orano’s Tricastin facility.

At the same time, Orano’s subsidiary – Orano USA announced that a new High-Capacity Basket (HCB) for its Versa-Pac VP-55 enriched uranium transport package had obtained NRC approval.

The VP-55 Type AF package was also specifically designed and licensed to meet the anticipated increasing need for transporting 10% LEU+ and up to 20% HALEU material.

The HCB enables two 5-inch-diameter pipe containers to be secured inside a VP-55 package, instead of only one. At the maximum length of 21 inches, each pipe can be filled to capacity or hold two standard two-litre or three 850-millilitre plastic shipping bottles of material.

“Based on our decades of nuclear fuel cycle expertise, Orano is increasingly involved in helping develop the advanced reactor supply chain with innovations and enhancements to our products and services,” said Orano USA CEO Amir Vexler. “Doubling the capacity of our versatile VP-55 package creates immediate value for customers shipping a variety of nuclear materials.”

The Versa-Pac is licensed for shipment of TRISO (TRIstructural ISOtropic) fuel, uranium oxides, uranium metal, uranyl nitrate crystals and other uranium compounds such as uranium carbides, uranyl fluorides and uranyl carbonates, uranium hexafluoride, and thorium.

Images courtesy of Orano