Lightbridge planning first full scale nuclear reactor tests for metallic fuel that could uprate existing reactors by 10 to 17%

Lightbridge, a nuclear engineering company based in Tysons Corner, Virginia, is planning the first tests in a full-scale reactor of new fuel rods that have been engineered to boost power output of existing nuclear reactors by 10 to 17 percent. Crucially, the tests will determine whether the technology can work safely. Inserted in a conventional reactor, the new fuel could boost power 10 percent. Replacing equipment including turbines with larger-size ones would increase that to 17 percent, Lightbridge say

Currently the US generates 800 Terawatt hours per year from nuclear reactors. Boosting nuclear power by 10 to 17 percent would be 80 to 136 Terawatt hours per year in the USA. The US generated 176.8 Terawatt hours in wind power for the 12 months ended July 2014. The Lightbridge nuclear uprate could enable pressure water reactors to uprate as much as 30% but that would require upgrading more equipment. Worldwide nuclear power production was 2356 TWh in 2013. This was in spite of 50 nuclear reactors being shutdown in Japan. A global 10% boost would be 235 TWh and a 17% boost would be 400 TWh.

if Lightbridge’s fuel works, it would be like adding 10 new plants in the United States—or 40 more in the world—without even having to build one.

Nextbigfuture has been covering annular fuel and nuclear uprates since 2008 and earlier.

Lightbridge is developing innovative, proprietary nuclear fuel technologies designed to significantly enhance the nuclear power industry’s economics and increase power output.

Lightbridge is developing two fuel product families for power uprates in existing and new build reactors:

* All-Uranium, seed-and-blanket fuel technology – up to 17% power uprate in existing PWRs;
* All-metal fuel technology – up to 30% power uprate in new build PWRs.

A recent investor presentation powerpoint pdf

In the third quarter of 2011, the team completed a preliminary scoping study confirming, in principle, the feasibility of performing irradiation of our metallic fuel samples in the ATR (Advanced Test Reactor). As a result, INL (Idaho National Labs) has now begun performing a more detailed technical design of the experiment and specific operating conditions. This detailed analysis will provide input into a safety analysis report, which is key prerequisite for the irradiation experiment. We expect the safety analysis to be completed in 2012.

Continued planning and preparations for loop irradiation testing of the Lightbridge-designed metallic fuel samples in the MIR research reactor at Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (Dimitrovgrad, Russia). The planning and preparatory work is currently underway. We expect to begin negotiations of a specific agreement for the planned loop irradiation testing with RIAR in the first half of 2012.
Began negotiations with a US fuel fabrication partner relating to metal fuel fabrication process development and demonstration work in the United States. We expect the negotiations to conclude later this year.

Lightbridge has recently received a letter from the US Department of Energy (DOE) confirming that our proposed collaborative projects with Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” fall under the 123 agreement that we understand has satisfied Rosatom’s requirements. The DOE letter was one of the key prerequisites for Rosatom before commercial negotiations relating to our proposed collaboration could commence.

Completed a preliminary core design for our selected PWR reference plant operating at a 17% power uprate and an 18-month fuel cycle using Lightbridge-designed all-uranium seed and blanket fuel. We now plan to perform further optimization studies for the core design.

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