The NuScale length Lightbridge Fuel rods were coextruded from billets contained in a zirconium canister and resulted in a bonded cladding surrounding the surrogate fuel material core


Image: Enfission and Lightbridge demonstrate patented manufacturing process of Lightbridge Fuel Surrogate Rods. Photo: courtesy of Thomas B. from Pixabay.

Lightbridge and Enfission, a joint venture between Lightbridge and Framatome, announced successful demonstration of the manufacturing process and fabrication of Lightbridge Fuel surrogate rods in a length that could be usable in NuScale Power’s small modular reactors (SMR). The demonstration included the production of several coextruded rods using an internally developed and patented coextrusion process. The fuel rod design is expected to increase core performance, extend core life, lessen the number of refueling outages, and offer reduced levelized cost of electricity.

The NuScale length Lightbridge Fuel rods (i.e., 6 feet in length) were coextruded from billets contained in a zirconium canister and resulted in a bonded cladding surrounding the surrogate fuel material core. The surrogate materials were designed to simulate the flow stresses, including temperatures and extrusion pressures, expected in the manufacture of the Lightbridge Fuel rods utilizing a uranium-zirconium alloy.

Seth Grae, President & Chief Executive Officer of Lightbridge Corporation and Enfission, commented, “This successful demonstration marks a major milestone for Lightbridge and our Enfission joint venture, as it represents first reduction to practice for our proprietary manufacturing process and confirms rod fabrication feasibility to 6 feet in length as a first step.  It also represents a leap forward towards commercial production of Lightbridge Fuel.  It is important to note that these surrogate rods were produced in the United States using our patented technology and processes. We are now moving rapidly towards a similar demonstration of full-length (i.e., 12 feet) coextruded rods for the existing US fleet of large commercial nuclear power plants and we look forward to providing further updates.”

“We at NuScale look forward to exploring applications for Lightbridge fuel in our groundbreaking NuScale Power Module (NPM),” said Dr. Jose Reyes, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for NuScale Power. “We look forward to advancing this research collaboration and Lightbridge’s ongoing progress in this space.”

Demonstration of the coextrusion manufacturing process follows a Memorandum of Understanding between NuScale and Enfission in May 2019, whereby the parties agreed to collaborate on the development of research and testing programs to explore the application of the Lightbridge Fuel technology in NuScale’s natural circulation SMR design.

Source: Company Press Release