US fuel technology company Lightbridge Corporation says Texas A&M University (TAMU) has been awarded approximately $1m by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Nuclear Energy University Program R&D Awards to study the deployment of advanced nuclear fuels in small modular reactors (SMRs). The project will be conducted over three years and will be entirely funded by DOE. The aim is to bring together collaborative teams to solve complex problems.

The study will consist of a comprehensive characterisation of the performance of Lightbridge Fuel inside a SMR designed by NuScale Power. Structural Integrity Associates will perform the thermal evaluation of fuel in the SMR using its PEGASUS simulation software, a next generation fuel evaluation and design optimization tool. The study is expected to generate unique sets of experimental data of friction factor, flow, and heat transfer behaviour under normal and off-normal conditions.

Seth Grae, President and CEO of Lightbridge said he greatly appreciated the DOE support. “We believe that this project will provide valuable insights into the performance of Lightbridge Fuel in NuScale SMRs and will help to pave the way for the widespread adoption of this next-generation nuclear fuel technology.”

Professor Yassin A Hassan, Principal Investigator of the study and Director of the Center for Advanced Small Modular and Micro Nuclear Reactors (CASMR) at TAMU, commented, “This award brings together the unique expertise of academia and industry to enable significant advancement in the commercialisation path for next-generation nuclear fuels. This collaboration marks an exciting opportunity to make substantial progress in the future of nuclear energy.”

NuScale Power Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Dr José N Reyes said highly efficient fuel performance “benefits not only our customers, but also the environment”. It also “further enhances the flexibility and reliability of our industrial applications such as high temperature process heat and hydrogen production”.

Tony Robinson, Chief Nuclear Officer, Structural Integrity Associates said putting PEGASUS technology to work in collaboration with the CASMR, Lightbridge, and NuScale is an exciting opportunity. “The experiment will not only provide critical data for advanced fuel technology deployed in a leading SMR design, but it is also a great example of how combining innovative experimental work with cutting-edge simulation and modelling is critical in crafting the future of nuclear power.”

Lightbridge has secured a long-term strategic partnership with Idaho National Laboratory (INL). DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) programme has twice awarded Lightbridge to support the development of its fuel. Lightbridge is participating in two university-led studies through the DOE Nuclear Energy University Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and TAMU.

In May, Lightbridge Corporation joined two public-private nuclear power groups: DOE’s High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) Consortium, and the US Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Small Modular Reactor Working Group.

Image courtesy of Canva Pro