TRISO fuel made in Canada for first time

14 April 2021

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has fabricated proprietary advanced fuel pellets for Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation's (USNC) Micro Modular Reactor (MMR). This is the first time that a TRISO-based nuclear fuel has been manufactured in Canada.

FCM fuel pellets contain TRISO fuel particles, illustrated here in blue (Image: USNC)

CNL's project to produce fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel pellets has been funded through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), a programme launched in 2019 by CNL to accelerate the deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada by enabling research and development, and to give SMR vendors access to the laboratory's expertise to help advance the development and commercialisation of their technologies.

"The successful fabrication of this innovative fuel design represents a major milestone for SMR research here in Canada, and demonstrates that CNL has the necessary expertise and capabilities to help move these advanced fuels from concept to reality," CNL President and CEO Joe McBrearty said.

USNC's FCM pellet design consists of spherical TRISO - TRIstructural-ISOtropic - particles dispersed in a matrix of silicon carbide. TRISO particles contain a dense fuel kernel coated with layers of graphite and silicon carbide, making the particles robust and enabling them to withstand intense heat and pressure. TRISO fuels are proposed for various new small and advanced reactor designs, including those currently under consideration for construction in Canada.

The CNRI programme was launched in 2019 by CNL to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling research and development, giving the SMR industry access to the facilities and expertise within CNL. The FCM project is part of a broader portfolio of work under the CNRI which was agreed last year by CNL and USNC. It also includes the establishment of a functional laboratory for fuel analysis at CNL's Chalk River campus and the development of a multi-year testing programme to support the validation of USNC's fuel and core as they progress through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's Vendor Design Review process.

The MMR is a high-temperature reactor, which uses helium to transfer heat from its TRISO-fuelled core to a molten salt system. USNC and Ontario Power Generation in June 2020 established Global First Power, a joint venture to build, own and operate a proposed MMR at Chalk River.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News