Lightbridge on Monday announced a pact with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to carry out a key test for the McLean-based company’s nuclear fuel technology.
The initial agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) entails fabricating samples of the fuel and irradiating them in a research reactor. The work represents “the most critical phase of fuel testing and demonstration” prior to testing in a commercial reactor.
Work at AECL’s Chalk River, Ontario, facility is slated to begin later this year.
Lightbridge increases the surface area of the fuel by changing the shape from a cylindrical rod to the other shape. For Boiler Water reactors it is often a cylinder shape (so inside areas along with outside areas). These alternative fuel shapes are called Annular fuel and were originally developed at MIT. South Korea is also working on it. By increasing the surface area they make it easier to cool and also enable more power to be generated from the same reactor. Reactors were built with extra safety margins so increasing the power by 10 to 17% is possible. There are extended uprating and other kinds of nuclear power uprates. This would be a fuel uprate. I did not include the full uprate discussion and annular fuel discussion as it involves repeating many previous articles.
Research and Development Project Schedule
Lightbridge currently anticipate that we [Lightbridge], working in collaboration with our development partners/vendors and contingent upon execution of collaborative research and development agreements with them, will be able to:
* Have semi-scale metallic fuel samples fabricated in 2015-2016 for irradiation testing in a test reactor environment; [the Canadian deal addresses this issue]
* Perform in-reactor and out-of-reactor experiments in 2015-2020; [Follow up deals in Canada seem likely]
* Establish a pilot-scale fuel fabrication facility and demonstrate full-length fabrication of our metallic fuel rods in 2017-2018;
* Develop analytical models in 2014-2017 for our metallic fuel technology that can be used for regulatory licensing; and
* Begin lead test assembly (LTA) operation in a full-size commercial light water reactor in 2020-2021, which involves testing a limited number of our full-scale fuel assemblies in the core of a commercial nuclear power plant over three 18-month cycles.
Accordingly, based on our current estimated schedule, final qualification (i.e., deployment of fuel in the first reload batch) for our 10% power uprate fuel in a commercial reactor is expected in 2023-2024 (at the end of two 18-month cycles of LTA operation). In the interim, over the next 1-2 years, we expect to enter into a commercial arrangement with one or more major fuel fabricators that may include upfront technology access fees and/or engineering support or consulting payments to us.