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Lightbridge and Framatome launch Enfission JV to commercialize innovative nuclear fuel

Lightbridge Corporation, a nuclear fuel technology company, and Framatome, an international leader in nuclear fuel, components and reactor services, have finalized and launched Enfission, a 50-50 joint venture company to develop, license and sell nuclear fuel assemblies based on Lightbridge-designed metallic fuel technology and other advanced nuclear fuel intellectual property.

The two companies began joint fuel development and regulatory licensing work under previously signed agreements initiated in March 2016.

Together, we are developing an innovative fuel technology that will provide significant benefits for our customers, helping them to generate more electricity from their nuclear power plants and better compete in the marketplace. Framatome provides its next generation of fuel assembly designs to more than 100 of the approximately 260 light water reactors worldwide. Through this work, we help our customers to meet their operational goals with a high level of safety.

—Bernard Fontana, Chairman of the Managing Board and CEO of Framatome

Framatome is owned by the EDF Group (75.5%), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI — 19.5%) and Assystem (5%).

Lightbridge technology enhances the economics and safety of nuclear power, operating about 1000 °C cooler than standard oxide fuel. Lightbridge invented, patented and has independently validated the technology, including successful demonstration of the fuel in a research reactor with near-term plans to demonstrate the fuel under commercial reactor conditions.

Currently, Lightbridge has two fuel product lines under development: metallic fuel technology and thorium-based seed-and blanket. Each fuel design utilizes Lightbridge’s proprietary metallic fuel rod technology designed for both existing and new build reactors.

The metal fuel technology came out of the research and development work for the thorium-based seed-and-blanket fuel assembly. The metallic seed rods used in the seed-and-blanket design are capable of operating safely at increased power density compared to standard uranium oxide fuel. Lightbridge determined that a fuel assembly comprising only metallic fuel rods could provide significant benefits to a nuclear power plant.

Lightbridge’s metal fuel differs from the alloy fuel that has been historically evaluated for fast reactor applications. Previous investigations into metal nuclear fuels focused on low alloy compositions such as U-10Zr wherein the concentration of uranium is significantly higher than the alloy constituent. The Lightbridge Zr-U alloy is a high-alloy fuel comprised of U-50Zr.

One of the primary differences, with respect to irradiation characteristics, of Lightbridge’s metal fuel compared to U-10Zr is a significant reduction in irradiation-induced swelling. The U-10Zr fuels exhibit high radiation-induced swelling (typically, ~30 volume percent within 2 atom percent burn) while swelling in the Lightbridge metal fuel is expected to be around 1 volume percent per atom percent burn.

Four large electric utilities that generate about half the nuclear power in the US already advise Lightbridge on fuel development and deployment. The company operates under a licensing and royalty model, independently validated and based on the increased power generated by Lightbridge-designed fuel and high ROI for operators of existing and new reactors. The economic benefits are further enhanced by anticipated carbon credits available under the Clean Power Plan.



The worldwide nuclear power industry needs more efficient ways to build (in a few months instead of many years) and operate (at lower cost) safe NPPs that could be accepted by the general public.

Will that variation be enough to do it?


Interesting thing about the Lightbridge fuel:  because it is denser than oxide fuel, it can either be designed to take up less space (with more room for coolant between fuel elements) or have more fuel total.  The more-coolant option allows a 30% power uprate for the same length of fuel cycle, while the more-fuel option allows a 10% power uprate AND a shift from an 18-month fuel cycle to a 24-month fuel cycle (with the greater capacity factor that implies).

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