JFoster & Associates, LLC (JFA) has recently filed patent protection paperwork for a novel manufacturing process to create new, advanced nuclear fuel forms. Taking advantage of established fabrication techniques for ceramics and metals, JFA plans to further develop nuclear fuels with heterogeneous material composition. Such fuels can be geometrically optimized according to the neutron flux through variance of fissile, fertile, absorber, moderator, and inert material species. JFA predicts this ability will improve several aspects of nuclear fuel performance. Notably, this includes a flattening effect on the axial and/or radial power profiles across the core and at the pellet-scale.

JFA intends on using this manufacturing approach to study and create fuels targeted for improved light water reactor (LWR) performance and extended operational life. The initial design concept known as GOBSTOPPER (Geometrically Optimized Burn STructure fOr Power Profile Enhancing Reactors) aims to achieve a 24-month fuel cycle through a radial ‘breed-and-burn’ material configuration within the individual fuel pellets. Careful material selection may also provide suppression or elimination of the rim effect seen at high burnup, as well as other pellet deformation effects.

While LWR sustainability has been a major driver in initial development efforts, JFA engineers note that the process behind GOBSTOPPER can be applied to virtually any solid fuel form. This includes fast reactor fuels, high temperature fuels utilizing refractory metals, or various types of dispersion fuels such as those containing TRISO particles. Incorporation of complex and non-traditional fuel geometries is also possible. Furthermore, JFA predicts that the process will be a competitive alternative to traditional press-and-sinter fabrication techniques.

For questions about this story and other JFA nuclear services, please contact Julie Foster at julie.foster@jfaidaho.com.