Fuel development and qualification research and development aims to fabricate Tristructural Isotropic (TRISO) fuels for use in high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR), as well as to use experimental fuel data to construct a baseline fuel form qualification data set to provide licensing support and guide the operation of HTGR. This R&D consists of seven experiments that will be assembled, irradiated, examined, and tested.
TRISO fuels are fabricated in conjunction with BWX Technologies Nuclear Operations Group (Lynchburg, Virginia) that can be formed for use in both the prismatic-block version of the HTGR and the pebble-bed HTGR, depending on the selected reactor design. The fuel is then irradiated in the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at INL. Then it undergoes post-irradiation examination (PIE) and safety testing at either Oak Ridge National Laboratory or INL depending on the timing. These PIE activities aim to provide feedback for fuel manufacturing and to demonstrate compliance with fuel performance requirements dictated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
In addition to PIE, fuel performance modeling uses computer codes to model and predict fuel performance during irradiation and safety testing. It provides a way to not only compare theoretical versus actual fuel performance, but also to safely simulate accident conditions in an effort to increase reactor safety.
With the combination of TRISO fuel fabrication, PIE and safety testing, and fuel performance modeling, TRISO fuels research and development is helping to produce a safer fuel for use in the HTGR.