Extrusion demo is milestone for Lightbridge Fuel fabrication

18 March 2024

The extrusion of samples of an alloy of depleted uranium and zirconium at Idaho National Laboratory is a critical step in the process to qualify Lightbridge Corporation's advanced nuclear fuel technology.

The post-extrusion uranium-zirconium rod (Image: INL)

The extrusion process involves pressing a metallic alloy billet through a die, as shown in a video shared by the company. Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Lightbridge will analyse the extruded rod to confirm the extrusion process parameters prior to producing future fuel samples using high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which will ultimately be used in the manufacture of Lightbridge Fuel.

Lightbridge Fuel is described by the company as a proprietary next-generation nuclear fuel technology for existing light water reactors and pressurised heavy water reactors which it says can significantly enhance reactor safety, economics, and proliferation resistance. The company is also developing Lightbridge Fuel for small modular reactors. Development of the fuel has received US federal support, with the award of two vouchers under the US Department of Energy's Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) programme. GAIN vouchers give advanced nuclear technology innovators access to the research capabilities and expertise available across the department's national laboratory complex.

The work at INL is part of Lightbridge's strategic partnership project and cooperative research and development agreements with Battelle Energy Alliance LLC, the Department of Energy's operating contractor for INL. The collaboration aims to generate irradiation performance data for Lightbridge's delta-phase uranium-zirconium alloy relating to various thermophysical properties, which the company says will support fuel performance modelling and regulatory licensing efforts for its commercial deployment.

"This achievement demonstrates the unique role that national laboratories, particularly INL, play in nuclear innovation and keeping the US as the global leader in nuclear energy," said Jess Gehin, INL associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Technology.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News