JV to commercialize nuclear fuel that will boost energy from existing reactors by 10-40% starting 2021

Lightbridge is developing nuclear fuel with more surface area which can enable existing nuclear reactors to generate 10-40% more energy by changing the shape of the fuel. Enfission, is a new joint venture with Framatome to develop, license and sell nuclear fuel assemblies based on the Lightbridge-designed technology.

Lightbridge’s technology aims to make existing and new nuclear power plants significantly more economical and safer, Grae said. Its deployment could add “meaningful amounts” of clean power without having to build new reactors. This, he said, would help to justify the economic case for existing plants to continue in operation, and to extend their operating licenses, but help to justify the economic case for building new units.

Framatome was formed from the spin-off of Areva Group’s nuclear reactor operations and is owned by is owned by the EDF Group (75.5%), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (19.5%) and Assystem (5%).

Reston, Virginia-based Lightbridge and Framatome – then Areva – in September 2017 signed a binding agreement to set up a joint venture to develop, manufacture and commercialize Lightbridge’s advanced metallic fuel technology. The fuel is made from a zirconium-uranium alloy and uses a unique composition and fuel rod geometry, which the company says offers improvements to the economics, efficiency and safety of existing and new nuclear power plants.

Irradiation testing of metallic fuel samples under commercial reactor operating conditions is to be carried out at Norway’s Halden research reactor, operated by the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE). In November 2016 Lightbridge also announced the signature of a letter of intent with an unnamed US nuclear utility for a lead test assembly demonstration in a commercial US nuclear power plant.

Speaking on Fox Business’ Varney & Co yesterday, Grae said he expected the first use of the fuel in a US reactor would take place around 2021. Exelon, Duke, Dominion and Southern Company – which together own and operate more than half the country’s nuclear reactors – are advising Lightbridge and have already notified the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to prepare to license the fuel for use, he said.

Lightbridge Corporation has received final regulatory approval for irradiation testing of its metallic fuel at Norway’s Halden research reactor. The company has also entered an agreement with US fabricator BWXT Nuclear Energy to evaluate the possible fabrication of fuel samples at BWXT’s US facilities.

Reston, Virginia-based Lightbridge announced on 12 January that the operator of the Halden reactor, the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), had received approval from the Norwegian Nuclear Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) for all planned irradiation of Lightbridge fuel, which is expected to begin in 2017.

Lightbridge’s all metal fuel (AMF) assembly is comprised entirely of metallic fuel rods and is capable of providing up to 17% increase in power output in existing PWRs and up to a 30% power uprate in new build PWRs operating on 18-month fuel cycles. Due to certain constraints associated with the size of equipment that can fit in the containment structures of existing PWRs, there are limits as to the maximum power uprate level existing PWRs can accommodate without changing their existing containment structure. However, a new build unit can be constructed with a larger containment to allow for higher capacity equipment with relatively small capital cost increase.

Lightbridge is developing three primary nuclear fuel product offerings for power uprates and longer fuel cycles:

  • LTB17-1024™ all-metal fuel for up to 10% power uprates and 24-month operating cycles in existing PWRs;
  • LTB17-1718 1718™ all-metal fuel for up to 17% power uprates and 1818-month operating cycles in existing PWRs; and
  • LTB17-3018™ all-metal fuel for up to 30% power uprates and 18-month operating cycles in new-build PWRs.
  • In addition, Lightbridge is developing LTB17-Th18™, our™ thorium-based seed and blanket fuel, which offers significant back-end advantages and enhanced proliferation resistance of used fuel.

Presently, the size of Lightbridge’s initial target market worldwide is approximately 127 GWe. Our target market is projected to grow to 261 GWe by 2030. The following chart shows a breakdown of Lightbridge’s estimated target market by market segment.

SOURCES- World Nuclear News, Lightbridge

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