Advanced nuclear fuel technology company Lightbridge and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have completed a collaborative project to demonstrate Lightbridge's nuclear fuel casting process using depleted uranium under the US Department of Energy's (DoE) Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) voucher programme.

Lightbridge's metallic fuel technology (Image: Lightbridge)

The project saw Lightbridge and PNNL work together to investigate a casting process to produce U-50Zr - uranium alloyed with approximately 50 wt% zirconium - which will be a key step in the production of Lightbridge's metallic nuclear fuel. The results have been published by PNNL.

Five 0.5-1 kg castings were performed throughout the project which used an iterative process to modify the casting methodology based on the results from analysis of the cast ingots. The results of the work will help Lightbridge determine a final process suitable to produce fuel material coupons for upcoming irradiation tests in the Advanced Test Reactor at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the company said.

Lightbridge says its proprietary Lightbridge Fuel technology can significantly enhance reactor safety, economics, and proliferation resistance for existing light water reactors and pressurised heavy water reactors. It is also developing Lightbridge Fuel for small modular reactors.

The DOE's GAIN programme provides the nuclear community with access to technical, regulatory, and financial support to help bring innovative technologies to commercialisation while ensuring the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the existing US nuclear fleet. It does this by awarding vouchers which give advanced nuclear technology innovators access to the research capabilities and expertise available across the DOE's national laboratory complex. Lightbridge has twice been awarded GAIN vouchers to support the development of Lightbridge Fuel, and has a long-term strategic partnership with INL.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Wednesday, 01 March 2023
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