Russian scientific institutes will begin testing fuel rods for small modular reactors (SMRs), Rosatom said on 14 May. The Luch Scientific Production Association in Podolsk has supplied a batch of samples of fibre uranium-niobium fuel elements (fuel rods) of various modifications for reactor testing at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad. Luch has developed fuel elements as part of a project to progress the Shelf-M SMR begin developed by the NA Dollezhal Scientific Research and Design Institute of Power Engineering (Nikiet).

“A key requirement of the main customer was the refusal to use zirconium in the production of fuel elements, as a result of which we decided to manufacture fibre uranium-niobium fuel elements,” said Vladimir Solntsev a laboratory head at Luch. “Despite the fact that niobium is a technologically more complex material, I believe that we managed to make a high-quality product that fully meets the requirements of the technical specifications.”

In the course of the project, Luch specialists for the first time applied a block technology for the production of a fuel core for a uranium-niobium fuel rod, which made it possible to eliminate several stages in pressing the fuel components, which saved production time. The   technology has been patented. Luch specialists now are planning to conduct thermal tests of mock-ups of the uranium-niobium fuel rods.