Framatome in partnership to develop fourth generation nuclear fuel

TRISO Fuel - USNC Pilot Fuel Manufacturing Facility.
USNC Pilot Fuel Manufacturing Facility. Courtesy USNC

Framatome and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) intend to form a joint venture to manufacture commercial quantities of Tri-structural Isotropic particles and Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated fuel.

The joint venture aims to bring commercially viable, fourth-generation nuclear fuel to market for USNC’s Micro-Modular reactor (MMR), as well as for other advanced reactor designs.

Tri-structural Isotropic (TRISO) fuel production capacity will be used in the manufacture of Ultra Safe Nuclear’s FCM fuel and also will be made available to the broader commercial market.

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FCM® fuel binds TRISO fuel particles in a durable silicon carbide fuel compact. Image credit: Framatome

Manufacturing of the TRISO particles and FCM fuel is expected to begin in late 2025.

Ultra Safe Nuclear’s collaboration with Framatome follows the opening of USNC’s Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in August 2022, claimed to be the only privately funded facility in the US to manufacture TRISO particles.

According to USNC, the facility’s engineers employ additive manufacturing to fabricate FCM fuel.

The modular production lines for TRISO particles and FCM fuel, already demonstrated at scale at the PFM facility, are rapidly repeated to increase capacity to meet the growing demand for the MMR and advanced nuclear reactor technologies more broadly.

TRISO fuel

USNC describes a TRISO particle as a Uranium bearing sphere coated with special ceramic layers designed like tiny pressure vessels.

The layers contain fission products inside and ensure mechanical and chemical stability during irradiation and temperature changes. The fuel is extremely robust, with over 60s years of development and experience.

In the case of Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated Fuel, industry standard TRISO fuel, which contains the radioactive byproducts of fission within layered ceramic coatings, is encased within a fully dense silicon carbide matrix.

This combination provides an extremely rugged and stable fuel with extraordinary high temperature stability.

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