New research reactor fuel completes irradiation tests

27 April 2017

 A plate-type uranium-molybdenum (U-Mo) fuel for research reactors has completed performance tests in the USA. The fuel could be used to replace highly-enriched uranium fuel (HEU), which can pose a proliferation risk.

U-Mo fuel assembly - 460 (KAERI)
The U-Mo fuel assembly undergoing tests in the ATR (Image: KAERI)

In 2012, Belgium, France, South Korea and the USA agreed to cooperate in the development of high-density low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel production technology using centrifugal atomisation technology developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). The aim is to reduce the use of HEU as fuel in civil research reactors.

The USA provided 110 kilograms of LEU in June 2013 for KAERI to manufacture 100kg of atomised U-Mo powder. In January 2014, the powder was shipped to France for fabrication into fuel elements by Areva's research reactor fuel manufacturer CERCA.

Testing of the experimental U-Mo fuel began in the Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory in October 2015. KAERI announced yesterday the successful completion of those verification tests.

The U-Mo fuel has a higher level of uranium density than uranium-silicon fuel, so it can use LEU instead of HEU. The fuel can also improve the performance of research reactors, according to KAERI.

KAERI said the results from the testing of the fuel will be used to obtain a construction licence for a new research reactor planned in Busan, which it hopes will be the first application for the U-Mo fuel.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News