Lightbridge demonstrates SMR fuel manufacturing process

12 May 2021

Lightbridge Corporation has demonstrated the manufacturing process for surrogate fuel rods for commercial-scale small modular reactors, using an internally developed and patented high-temperature coextrusion process.

Surrogate rod coextrusion billets and components (Image: Lightbridge)

The six-foot (1.8 metre) length of the surrogate rods is typical of the fuel rods used by many small modular reactors now in the development and licensing phases, the Reston, Virginia-based company said.

Future fabrication of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) "rodlets" for loop irradiation testing in Idaho National Laboratory's Advanced Test Reactor and, ultimately, of commercial length HALEU fuel rods, will use similar extrusion and casting techniques. This will create material chemistry and grain structures representative of Lightbridge Fuel. Using surrogate materials is a cost-effective approach to fabrication development as it does not require uranium material, the company said.

Lightbridge President and CEO Seth Grae said the company is developing its fuel to enable SMRs to economically load follow, ramping up and down in power as renewables are available, and further enhance the safety of SMRs that utilise natural circulation to maintain core cooling.

"Lightbridge Fuel can reduce the cost of generating electricity from an SMR, while delivering to both SMRs and large reactors increased power output, safety improvements and enhanced non-proliferation benefits," he said.

Lightbridge, which says its advanced metal fuel concept is significantly more economical and safer than traditional fuel, intends to prioritise developing fuel for future small modular reactors rather than for large reactor designs.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News