BWXT ramps up TRISO fuel production capacity

02 October 2019

BWX Technologies, Inc announced today that it is in the process of restarting its existing uranium oxycarbide tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel production line at its Lynchburg, Virginia facility. The company - the only US manufacturer of such fuel - also plans to expand its production capacity.

Individual TRISO particles are typically about 0.85 millimetres in diameter (Image: Idaho National Laboratory)

BWXT said the expansion of its existing TRISO fuel production capability "will position the company to meet emergent client interests in Department of Defence microreactors, space reactors, and civil advanced reactors".

"We are very interested in the number of promising applications for TRISO fuel," said BWXT President and CEO Rex Gevenden. "Given our long history of successful production and testing of this fuel type, we are extremely pleased to be ramping up this capability."

TRISO fuel comprises spherical particles of uranium fuel with a triple carbon-coating which effectively gives each tiny particle its own primary containment system. Such fuel can withstand extreme temperatures and has very low proliferation concerns and environmental risks. TRISO fuel is undergoing validation in a series of experiments at Idaho National Laboratory at its Advanced Test Reactor under the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor programme.

BWXT said its TRISO production facility at Lynchburg is currently licensed to produce this type of high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel.

The company said it has cooperated with the DOE in the development and qualification of TRISO-based fuel for more than 15 years, demonstrating and establishing BWXT's commercial capability for TRISO fuel manufacturing.

There will be two phases to the expansion of BWXT's production expansion. Over the next few months, the company will add additional equipment and staff to its existing facility to restart production. Within 24-32 months, it will complete capacity upgrades to begin increased TRISO production to meet emerging customer needs.

BWXT noted that TRISO production with HALEU requires at least a Category 2 licence from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which can take several years and substantial investment to obtain. The company currently has the only private Category 1 licences in the USA, which can also be used for producing Category 2 materials. It said its existing infrastructure would contribute to far lower initial costs as compared with setting up a new TRISO production facility.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News