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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

PMBR exports first nuclear fuel particles for testing


By: Esmarie Swanepoel
13th January 2009

Updated 2 hours 24 minutes agoTEXT SIZE Nuclear design company Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) has successfully manufactured coated fuel particles, which would form the basis of high temperature reactor fuel, containing 9,6% enriched uranium.

The fuel particles, which were created during December, have been shipped to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the US, where the particles would undergo irradiation testing at the Idaho National Laboratory, the PBMR said in a statement on Tuesday.

CEO Jaco Kriek noted that this achievement would give the PBMR huge credibility as a participant in the Next Generation Nuclear Plant project, in which it was partaking, and added that the manufacturing of fuel particles was a key driver of the company’s partnership in the Westinghouse-led consortium.

The fuel particles were developed at PMBR’s Fuel Development Laboratories, in collaboration and under the nuclear license of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation. Kriek said that the successful manufacturing of the coated particles was the culmination of several years of intense development work at PBMR’s laboratories.

“We have conducted extensive development work and we are satisfied that the coated particles that were produced for testing will provide proof and assurance that the PBMR will perform to its predicted best-in-the-world safety capabilities, in the process heat and electricity markets, as well as cogeneration applications.”

The fuel was based on the design and manufacturing process employed in the latest, high-quality fuel, which was used in the German working-group research reactor, that was successfully operated for 21 years.

The fuel design consists of low-enriched uranium, triple coated isotropic particles contained on a moulded graphite sphere. A coated particle consists of a kernel of uranium dioxide, surrounded by four coating layers.

About 15 000 of these coated particles, which are about one millimetre in diameter, are mixed with graphite powder and a phenolic resin, and is pressed into a 50 mm diameter sphere. A further 5 mm of pure carbon is then added to for a nonfuel zone, and the resulting spheres are sintered and annealed to make them hard and durable.

The fuel would ultimately be used in the PBMR, which is a high temperature, gas-cooled reactor, with a closed-cycle, gas turbine power conversion system.

Edited by: Esmarie Swanepoel

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


the SA high temperature reactor is overdue. Do the South African difficulties to manage the technical challenges of this reactor type???