Oak Ridge announces MiniFuel targets to accelerate testing

05 June 2019

Faster research into nuclear fuel performance is now possible at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's (ORNL's) High Flux Isotope Reactor through the use of tiny samples, known as MiniFuel.

MiniFuel targets compared to a US penny (Image: ORNL)

The materials that make up nuclear fuel assemblies and reactor components all have very important roles in safety and performance. It is essential to know how they respond to the effects of radiation over time and so samples are irradiated in research reactors, sometimes for long periods.

Raising the power of the reactor in terms of neutron flux is one way to speed up the experimental process. A new technique announced by ORNL on 3 June is to use very small, pinhead sized, samples for irradiation which are 1000 times smaller than regular nuclear fuel pellets that are normally used.

"Fuel performance testing is extremely complex, and it is difficult to interpret the data because so much is happening across the fuel pellet," said ORNL's Chris Petrie, who developed the concept. "With MiniFuel, we can isolate conditions, test specific fuel phenomena and acquire performance data much faster," he added.

ORNL said that the first tests are focused on uranium nitride fuel for light water reactors, which is a kind of fuel which needs more performance data.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News