Company plans to invest $13m in facility over five years US assistant secretary for nuclear energy Kathryn Huff opens the Ultra Safe Nuclear fuel facility in Tennessee. Courztesy Ultra Safe Nuclear. Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, the Seattle-based developer of microreactors, has opened its pilot fuel manufacturing facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The facility will produce the first fuel for testing and qualification for use in Ultra Safe Nuclear’s advanced micro modular reactor (MMR) energy system, which the company says is “gaining traction” in the US and world markets.

The new facility uses the same production-scale modules for manufacturing Triso coated fuel particles and the company’s patented fully ceramic-microencapsulated (FCM) fuel that will go into Ultra Safe Nuclear’s future commercial fuel manufacturing facility.

The facility is capable of producing FCM for testing and qualification in multiple-kilogramme quantities, Ultra Safe Nuclear said. The facility will also codify and demonstrate the manufacturing modules that will be used in the company’s future commercial fuel manufacturing factory.

The fuel manufacturing processes and modules are based on nuclear fuels research and development efforts of the US Department of Energy and the Office of Nuclear Energy. A 3D printing process for manufacturing refractory ceramic carbides was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and licensed by Ultra Safe Nuclear for use in the facility’s production line.

Ultra Safe Nuclear said earlier this year it would invest $13m (€13.1m) over five years to open the pilot fuel manufacturing operation to meet demand for fuelling its own micro modular reactor and other advanced terrestrial and space energy systems.

What is Triso Nuclear Reactor Fuel?

Triso is “tri-structural isotropic particle fuel”. Each Triso particle is made up of a uranium, carbon and oxygen fuel kernel. The kernel is encapsulated by three layers of carbon- and ceramic-based materials that prevent the release of radioactive fission products.

The particles are incredibly small (about the size of a poppy seed) and very robust. They can be fabricated into cylindrical pellets or billiard ball-sized spheres called “pebbles” for use in either high temperature gas or molten salt-cooled reactors.

Triso fuels are structurally more resistant to neutron irradiation, corrosion, oxidation and high temperatures – the factors that most impact fuel performance – than traditional reactor fuels.

Each particle acts as its own containment system thanks to its triple-coated layers. This allows them to retain fission products under all reactor conditions.

Simply put, Triso particles cannot melt in a reactor and can withstand extreme temperatures that are well beyond the threshold of current nuclear fuels. – Courtesy US DOE

Date: Wednesday, 24 August 2022
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