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The first shipment of research reactor fuel elements under a nine-year contract between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and TRIGA International has arrived at Pennsylvania State University. Meanwhile, the original developer of the TRIGA research reactor has been awarded a design development services contract in support of a conceptual research reactor design for a new facility at Sandia National Laboratory.

The fuel elements were manufactured at TRIGA International's facility in France (Image: Kate Myers/PSU)

TRIGA International - a joint venture between Framatome and General Atomics (GA) - is the world's only supplier of fuel for TRIGA reactors from its fabrication facility in Romans, France. The facility returned to service last year after undergoing major renovation work, with the DOE providing nearly USD16 million to help upgrade the facility and restore new fuel production. The fuel for Penn State's Breazeale Reactor was delivered on 27 September, the first shipment since 2012.

TRIGA - standing for Training, Research, Isotopes General Atomics - reactors use zirconium-hydride fuel and are primarily used for student training, research projects and isotope production. The DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy provides and coordinates the nuclear fuel elements for the 12 currently operating TRIGA reactors that are located at US universities. The Brezeale Reactor was granted its first operating licence in 1955, and Penn State claims it to be the longest continuously operating university research reactor in the USA.

Penn State took delivery of the fuel on 27 September (Image: Kate Myers/PSU)

Kathryn Huff, US assistant secretary for nuclear energy, said the fuel will support Penn State's facility expansion and its role in helping support US nuclear R&D. "This shipment of fuel represents DOE's commitment to our university research reactors that are helping to train the future nuclear energy workforce," she said.

Andrew Read, interim vice president for research at Penn State, said the new fuel supports "new and exciting" growth in the university's nuclear research enterprise. "Through significant investments to the reactor that now allow simultaneous neutron beam operations, as well as a partnership through the Nuclear Science User Facilities program, the university is uniquely positioned to make significant advances in nuclear science, share our knowledge and educate the next generation of nuclear engineers," he said.

Sandia contract

In a separate announcement on 26 September, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) said it has been awarded a contract by Sandia National Laboratories to provide design development services in support of a conceptual research reactor design for a new advanced facility.

"GA-EMS has a rich heritage and extensive expertise in the design, construction, installation, and on-going upgrades and support of a worldwide fleet of TRIGA reactors," GA-EMS President Scott Forney said. "We have long enjoyed a strong working relationship with Sandia and look forward to delivering a new facility conceptual design under this contract to support their experimental, research and development activities going forward."

Sandia currently operates a TRIGA reactor - the Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR) - at its Albuquerque, New Mexico site. The ACRR was converted in 1978 from a previous research reactor, the Sandia Annular Core Pulse Reactor, which had operated since 1967.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 05 October 2023
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