Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lightbridge testing fuel at Idaho lab

Uranium-zirconium fuel will get irradiation at ATR in joint project with Texas A&M University

Lightbridge logoLightbridge Corp (NASDAQ:LTBR), announced June 15 that its joint nuclear fuel testing proposal with Texas A&M University has been approved by the Idaho National Laboratory Advanced Test Reactor National Scientific User Facility (ATR NSUF).

The proposal entitled "Irradiation Behavior and Performance of a Uranium-Zirconium Metal Alloy Fuel" includes capsule irradiation testing of Lightbridge-designed uranium-zirconium metal fuel samples in the Advanced Test Reactor and their post-irradiation examination in hot cells at Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

Testing will take four years. As the project progresses, interim and final results will be published by the INL-Texas A&M University-Lightbridge research team in a major technical journal.

seth grae "This is a positive technical development for Lightbridge as it provides us access to US-based test facilities on a cost-sharing basis," said Lightbridge CEO Seth Grae (left). "We have been testing and demonstrating our advanced nuclear fuel designs in test facilities in Russia for a number of years.

The joint project with Texas A&M University at INL is part of a US-based testing and demonstration program, with a focus on Western-type light water reactors. The proposed project went through extensive technical review and evaluation by technical experts from INL and DOE officials.

SeanMcDeavittTAMUSean McDeavitt, Assistant Professor, Nuclear Engineering, at Texas A&M University (right), stated, "It's very exciting to be selected for this program. The primary goal of this project is to continue the development of the advanced fuel design created by Lightbridge.

Fuel information

According to the company website, Lightbridge’s primary fuel design incorporates uranium-zirconium metal fuel rods in the seed region and thorium-uranium oxide fuel rods in the blanket region. The company states this fuel design offers enhanced proliferation resistance, significantly reduced volume (approx. 40% volume reduction), weight (70% weight reduction) and long-term radio-toxicity (90% reduction) of used fuel, and improved fuel cycle economics, particularly on the back-end. In some earlier technical publications, this fuel design was also referred to as Radkowsky Thorium Fuel or RTF.

Next steps

In a May 2010 slide presentation to an energy conference sponsored by Deutsche Bank, Lightbridge CEO Grae laid out the timelines for commercialization of the fuel. He presented timelines indicating licensing activity could start by 2015 with fabrication scheduled for 2018 and first deliveries to customers in the period 2018-2021.

Commercial expectations for the firm are increasing as it was added in 2010 to the World Nuclear Association’s (WNA) Nuclear Energy Index.

Idaho lab selects five new projects for ATR

ATR coreThe Idaho National Laboratory Advanced Test Reactor National Scientific User Facility (ATR NSUF) has selected five new university-led research projects to conduct nuclear energy experiments that will advance research in nuclear fuels and help extend the lifetime of structural components in nuclear systems. [Press release]

The ATR NSUF is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Scientific User Facilities located throughout the country that grants universities access to world-class facilities at no cost, with the goal of facilitating the advancement of science and technology.

Research teams from Boise State, University of Central Florida, Texas A&M, University of Michigan and Drexel University in Philadelphia will work with INL scientists on their proposed experiments.

• Darryl Butt, Boise State University (team members include Westinghouse and the University of Wisconsin): an irradiation and post-irradiation examination on "High Temperature In-Pile Irradiation Test of Single Phase U3Si2."

• Yongho Sohn, University of Central Florida (team members include Georgia Institute of Technology, Idaho National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and Ohio State University): an irradiation and post-irradiation examination on "Low Fluence Behavior of Metallic Fuels."

• Sean McDeavitt, Texas A&M University (team members include several researchers from the Lightbridge Corporation): an irradiation and post-irradiation examination on "Irradiation Behavior and Performance of a Uranium-Zirconium Metal Alloy Fuel."

• Emmanuelle Marquis, University of Michigan (team members include TechSource, Inc., and Idaho National Laboratory): a post-irradiation examination experiment on "Radiation-induced Segregation/Depletion at Grain Boundaries in Neutron Irradiated 304SS at Low Dose Rates."

• Mitra Taheri, Drexel University: a post-irradiation examination experiment on "Multi-scale Investigation of the Influence of Grain Boundary Character on RIS and Mechanical Behavior in LWR Steel."

The INL ATR NSUF and affiliated partners have facilities capable of conducting reactor testing, post-irradiation examinations and beam line experiments. The INL said in a statement the ATR NSUF is the only U.S. research reactor capable of providing large-volume, high-flux neutron irradiations in a prototypic reactor environment. So far 25 projects have been approved under the program.

Open solicitation for projects

The ATR NSUF has open rolling solicitations for proposals with two closing dates each year. The newly announced proposals awarded were submitted during the previous call, which began in October 2009 and closed in April 2010. The next call for solicitations is currently open and scheduled to close Oct. 5, 2010. A U.S. university or college investigator must lead the proposal. The lab encourages collaboration between research organizations.

The INL provides a list of program and technical contacts on its website for additional information.

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