Post-irradiation testing of high-burnup fuel under way at ORNL

10 May 2024

High burnup fuel rods manufactured by GE Vernova's Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) are being examined at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) after spending six years in a commercial nuclear power reactor.

The fuel shipment arrives at ORNL (Image: US Department of Energy)

The rods, manufactured at GNF's fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, with support from the Department of Energy's Accident Tolerant Fuel programme, were shipped to the lab after completing three full cycles of operation at a US nuclear power plant. ORNL will conduct post-irradiation experiments over the next several years to verify safety and performance. Results from the experiments will be used to support the commercial deployment of such fuels.

Higher burnup fuel is designed to remain in the reactor core for longer periods of time before it is removed for long-term storage, leading to fewer refuelling outages, increased power output for better economics, and less used fuel over the lifetime of the reactor.

"This shipment of these rods is another milestone in the drive to develop the next generation of even safer and more reliable fuel," said Mike Chilton, Executive Vice President, GNF. "We are proud to be part of this collaboration with ORNL and DOE to benefit the entire industry."

"This fuel shipment to Oak Ridge National Laboratory is an important step in GNF's efforts to commercialise their high burnup fuel," said Frank Goldner, a nuclear engineer at DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy. "High burnup fuels are expected to enhance the performance of today's reactors and will help us on our path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News