NRC approves HALEU transport package

12 January 2024

NAC International's patented Optimus-L packaging system to contain and transport high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel has been approved by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Such fuel will be used in advanced reactors.

Optimus-L packages (Image: NAC)

The NRC issued a Certificate of Compliance (CoC) on 14 December, enabling NAC with the Optimus-L system (packaging and contents) to transport HALEU TRISO fuel compacts to support an advanced reactor project for a undisclosed customer.

"This is the first time the NRC has licensed high-capacity packagings (>500 lb payload) for HALEU TRISO fuel in the US and lays the foundation for future licensing of NAC's Optimus systems to carry other HALEU contents," NAC noted.

TRISO fuel comprises spherical kernels of enriched uranium oxycarbide (or uranium dioxide) surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable up to very high temperatures. HALEU TRISO fuels are being considered as the preferred fuel in several advanced reactor designs currently under development.

The Optimus-L is a lightweight, versatile and modular nuclear materials packaging system first licensed by the NRC in December 2021. NAC developed Optimus as a platform that can be easily expanded and optimised for multiple types of nuclear materials using the company's proprietary methodologies. NAC said it plans on leveraging this platform to include a range of HALEU forms and design configurations to support future HALEU material packaging and transportation projects.

"The approval of high-capacity packaging systems like Optimus-L for these types of fuel supports the development of a robust HALEU infrastructure to ensure material movement is not a limiting factor in modern nuclear power development," NAC said. "When compared to smaller capacity drum packages that would require an excessive number of packagings and significantly more handling effort per conveyance trailer, the Optimus-L offers a highly competitive solution to economically ship commercial quantities of HALEU materials with fewer packagings."

"We are pleased to achieve this milestone - NRC certification for our unequaled Optimus-L system to incorporate HALEU TRISO contents," said NAC President and CEO Kent Cole. "Receiving this CoC supports our objective of offering high-capacity and high-efficiency HALEU transportation to support commercial shipments.

"This amendment opens the door for other future HALEU contents in the Optimus-L platform. This certification is an important milestone on our HALEU packaging technology roadmap, and by offering efficient HALEU packaging and transportation, we are doing our part to help build a robust HALEU fuel cycle."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News