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TRISO demonstration fuel project completed by BWXT Nuclear

BWX Technologies announced that its nuclear subsidiary is again producing an experimental fuel at its Virginia facility.

The TRISO nuclear fuel line restart project is completed by BWXT Nuclear Operations Group. The TRISO production line restart comes 18 months after the company announced that plan. It also has gained a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory to develop TRISO fuel.

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TRISO, or Tri-structural Isotropic, is made up of a poppy seed-sized carbon and oxygen fuel kernal. The kernel is encapsulated by three layers of carbon- and ceramic-based materials that prevent the release of radioactive fission products, according to the DOE.

The small kernels are considered to have very “robust” energy capabilities and be very flexible in application, according to the DOE.

“The restart of our TRISO line positions BWXT as the only company in the U.S. that is currently executing production contracts for TRISO fuel,” said Joel Duling, president of the Nuclear Operations Group. “I’m very proud of our team for blending new, innovative ideas with our extensive history and experience in fuel development and manufacturing.”

The project is jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Operational Energy Capabilities Improvement Fund Office and NASA, with overall program management provided by the DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office.

In March, BWXT announced a contract with the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to demonstrate capability to manufacture TRISO nuclear fuel to support the continued development of the Transformational Challenge Reactor. The scope of the contract includes the fabrication and delivery of uranium kernels, TRISO coated surrogate materials, and TRISO coated uranium kernels for a demonstration batch.

BWXT is in the process of hiring 25 additional workers for its TRISO operations.

BWX, formerly known as Babcock & Wilcox, is based in Lynchberg, VA., same city where the fueling facility is located. The energy infrastructure firm has extensive operations in the U.S. and Canada.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering, POWERGEN+ and POWERGEN International. He is a 13-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper and trade journalist. He also likes to play the guitar. He can be reached at 918-831-9177).