Oak Ridge National Laboratory are refining their design of a 3D-printed nuclear reactor core, scaling up the additive manufacturing process necessary to build it, and developing methods to confirm the consistency and reliability of its printed components. A rapidly built 3D printed nuclear reactor could get nuclear energy competitive again for power generation. A compact nuclear reactor could be used for space propulsion and space power.
The lab aims to turn on the first-of-its-kind reactor by 2023. TCR will be the 14th reactor built and operated by ORNL.
Here is an 80 page report on the 13 previous nuclear reactors built and operated by ORNL. The first was the graphite reactor, the world’s first operational nuclear reactor, which served as a plutonium production pilot plant during World War II. It was followed by two aqueous-homogeneous reactors and two red-hot molten-salt reactors that were parts of power-reactor development programs and by eight others designed for research and radioisotope production. One of the eight was an all-metal fast burst reactor used for health physics studies. All of the others were light-water cooled and moderated, including the famous swimming-pool reactor that was copied dozens of times around the world. Two of the reactors were hoisted 200 feet into the air to study the shielding needs of proposed nuclear-powered aircraft. The final reactor, and the only one still operating today, is the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) that was built particularly for the production of californium and other heavy elements.
ORNL is the international leader in development of microencapsulated fuel technologies. The TCR reactor utilizes the uranium nitride TRISO fuel particles developed at ORNL in recent years.
ORNL has a high temperature moderator, yttrium hydride. It is now fully developed to be used in the TCR demonstration.
The additively manufactured reactor core consists of silicon carbide and stainless steel.
The overall TCR system layout is innovative and simple, which provides low cost, reliability, safety and ability for rapid deployment. Core. The TCR core will be advanced manufactured and housed inside a conventionally manufactured and qualified vessel made from grade 304H stainless steel. The core consists of uranium nitride coated fuel particles within an advanced manufactured silicon carbide structure. The fuel blocks are arranged within advanced manufactured grade 316L stainless steel structures and are interspersed with yttrium hydride moderator elements. The hydride moderator minimizes the amount of high-assay low-enriched uranium required to reach criticality.
The TCR program has completed several foundational experiments including selection of a core design, and a three-month “sprint” that demonstrated the agility of the additive manufacturing technology to quickly produce a prototype reactor core.
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com