Recent Advances in High Temperature Gas Reactor Fuel Technology for use in the Next Generation Nuclear Plant

Dr. David Petti
Director, Very High Temperature Reactor Technology Development Office
Idaho National Laboratory

As the nation ponders its energy choices, Americans keep asking themselves: how can the country make better use of its resources and emit fewer greenhouse gases without hurting U.S. industries? A research project at Idaho National Laboratory may have part of the answer.

INL researchers have developed a new type of nuclear fuel that leaves less waste and could help industries burn fewer carbon-emitting fossil fuels. The fuel is designed for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP), which could provide the heat and hydrogen many industries currently get from fossil fuels.

The advanced nuclear fuel, which would be used in next-generation high-temperature gas reactors, has set a particle fuel record by consuming approximately 19 percent of its low-enriched uranium. That's more than double the previous record set by German scientists in the 1980s, and more than three times that achieved by current commercial light water reactor fuel. Such high "burnup" levels can reduce the amount of unused fuel coming out of next-generation reactors.

Additionally, none of the new fuel particles have experienced material failures since entering the extreme neutron irradiation test environment of the Advanced Test Reactor in December 2006.