Clean Core prepares for testing of innovative fuel

15 June 2022

Nuclear fuel innovation company Clean Core Thorium Energy has signed a new strategic partnership agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) which details next steps for irradiation testing and qualification of its Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL) fuel in Idaho National Laboratory's (INL's) Advanced Test Reactor.

ANEEL test pellets (Image: Clean Core)

ANEEL is a proprietary fuel technology using a combination of thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to enhance the performance of CANDU reactors and other pressurised heavy-water reactor designs. The fuel can reduce the amount of waste produced in such reactors by over 80%, offering waste management and safety benefits, as well as non-proliferation benefits.

Chicago-based Clean Core, in partnership with Texas A&M University and INL, has already completed the fabrication of the ANEEL test pellets under INL's quality assurance requirements. The pellets are ready to be inserted into a testing assembly for INL to conduct high burn-up irradiation testing, followed by post-irradiation examination and fuel qualification.

INL expects to begin testing of the ANEEL fuel in its Advanced Test Reactor by the end of 2022 or early 2023.

"This strategic partnership with the Department of Energy for the first-of-its-kind thorium-based nuclear fuel marks a major milestone in the development and commercialisation of this new technology," said Clean Core CEO Mehul Shah. "Our fuel holds tremendous promise for making nuclear power plants more economical while improving accident-tolerance. With this new technology, Clean Core will open up carbon-free base-load electricity to emerging countries around the world."

Whilst the fuel testing is being carried out at INL, Clean Core will complete performance and safety assessments and a demonstration irradiation of full-size fuel assemblies in a CANDU reactor with partners in Canada.

Although the initial test pellets use HALEU supplied by INL, Clean Core plans to use HALEU from US enrichment company Centrus Energy Corp for commercial-scale production of the fuel. Clean Core and Centrus are collaborating to promote the use of ANEEL fuel under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2021.

Centrus is currently building the USA's first production facility for HALEU at Piketon, Ohio, under a three-year, USD115 million cost-shared contract signed in 2019 with the DOE.

Clean Core said it expects to have ANEEL fuel assemblies in use at commercial CANDU reactors by the end of 2025.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News