Lightbridge fuel development gains DOE funding

30 May 2019

Framatome has received a voucher through the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) programme to support development of Lightbridge Fuel in collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

A Lightbridge Fuel test assembly (Image: Lightbridge)

Lightbridge Fuel uses a helically-twisted shape and unique metallic composition which the company says can significantly reduce fuel operating temperatures, improve the fuel's structural integrity and enhance its response to abnormal events. Enfission - a joint venture of Lightbridge Corporation and Framatome - was set up in January 2018 to commercialise nuclear fuel assemblies based on this technology.

The GAIN initiative was launched in November 2015 to provide a way to fast-track nuclear innovation, providing stakeholders with a means of accessing DOE research and development infrastructure to help them meet the challenges of bringing new technologies towards engineering-scale demonstration.

This is Framatome's third GAIN voucher and its first supporting the Lightbridge Fuel design.

Framatome said its collaboration with INL under this GAIN voucher will "leverage the laboratory's experience in fuel and material development, as well as its performance knowledge, to facilitate Framatome's understanding of phenomena unique to uranium-zirconium metallic fuel".

Over a one-year period, Framatome and INL will work under the voucher to generate failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) and a phenomena identification ranking table (PIRT) based on the Lightbridge Fuel concept. Both the FMEA and PIRT are important steps in licensing an advanced fuel product in the USA and will be required inputs to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

For this work DOE will fund INL at a value of USD477,000.

"This voucher enables Framatome to apply focused attention on key licensing steps to commercialise Lightbridge Fuel," said Robert Freeman, vice president of contracts and services, fuel commercial and customer centre at Framatome. "We are enthusiastic about the transformative science and technology benefits of this metallic fuel's unique composition and geometry for the nuclear energy industry."

Enfission CEO Seth Grae said: "We appreciate this support from DOE for Lightbridge Fuel, which is designed to increase power output, enhance economics and provide additional safety benefits for existing and future reactors worldwide. We look forward to working closely with Framatome, INL and DOE to further advance Lightbridge Fuel toward commercialisation."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News