Irradiation trials of HTR-PM fuel completed

05 January 2015

Qualification irradiation tests of fuel elements for the demonstration HTR-PM high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) plant being built at Shidaowan, China, have been completed in the Netherlands.

China's Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University has conducted research on HTGR fuel element technology over the past 30 years. It developed a trial production line with an annual capacity of 100,000 spherical fuel elements. However, INET requires qualification of its fuel to support licensing of the HTR-PM reactor systems.

The Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG), which operates the High Flux Reactor (HFR) at Petten in the Netherlands, said that it completed a "multi-year qualification irradiation project" for the fuel on 30 December.

During the first step of the fuel qualification, NRG irradiated five spherical HTGR fuel elements (pebbles) under controlled conditions in the HFR, at almost constant central pebble temperature, while fission gas release was measured continuously online. The irradiation started in September 2012. Fission gas release during irradiation is an important measure for fuel performance and quality under operational conditions, and forms an essential part of the fuel qualification.

NRG said the fuel elements have shown "very good behaviour" during irradiation in HFR. Non-destructive post-irradiation examinations will now be performed on the fuel pebbles in the NRG Hot Cells at Petten.

For the second step of the fuel qualification, the five HTR pebbles will be subjected to a heating test at JRC-ITU in Karlsruhe, Germany, in the so-called KÜFA-facility. The heating test is to demonstrate the integrity and proper performance of irradiated HTGR fuel under accidental conditions.

The construction of a pilot production line for fuel elements for the Shidaowan HTR-PM is nearing completion in Baotou, Inner Mongolia. The production line will have an annual capacity of 300,000 fuel elements. The National Nuclear Security Administration issued a permit for its construction in February 2013 and a groundbreaking ceremony was held the following month. It is expected to be commissioned in August.

The demonstration HTR-PM plant being constructed at Shidaowan, near Weihai city in Shandong province, will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012, with commercial operation scheduled in 2015. A further 18 such HTR-PM units are proposed at Shidaowan.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News