USNC Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated Fuel (Photo: USNC)US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) has established a new facility in Salt Lake City to support the development of the company's proprietary Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) fuel.

Materials developed at the new facility will be used in Ultra Safe Nuclear's Micro-Modular Reactors (MMR) and other nuclear reactors, including gas-cooled reactors, light water reactors, Candu reactors, and molten salt cooled reactors.

Salt Lake City was selected as the Ultra Safe Nuclear fuel-development site because of the region's well-established infrastructure, knowledgeable workforce, and status as a technology growth hub. The region is home to significant ceramics and materials expertise.

The new lab augments Ultra Safe's materials development efforts at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and collaborations with the Chalk River Laboratories in Canada.

USNC said 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 result is a safer nuclear fuel that can withstand higher temperatures and more radiation.

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 new matrix improves the structural and containment characteristics of TRISO particles, trapping and sealing radioactive fission products permanently, preventing contamination of the environment.

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 accident conditions. The higher-thermal conductivity of FCM fuel makes it extremely rugged and stable, allowing the fuel pellet to have a flatter temperature profile, lowering peak temperatures inside the reactor.

"Our accident-tolerant FCM fuel design will deliver built-in safety, especially when combined with the inherently safe design of our MMR Reactor," said Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear. "Establishing the new advanced materials facility in Salt Lake City will help expedite development and adoption of FCM fuel."

FCM fuel will be first used in USNC’s MMR, a 15MW reactor currently in advanced licensing stage at the Chalk River  campus in Ontario, in collaboration with Ontario Power Generation through the jointly-owned Global First Power Limited Partnership.  

Photo: The MIcro Modular Reactor will use Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated fuel (Credit: USNC)