“Today at 5:05 pm MDT [the TREAT facility] pulsed for a few seconds, subjecting a small capsule of light water reactor fuel to radiation and heat. The test marked the return of a capability that is critical to the United States’ role in the development of nuclear fuels, for both the existing fleet and a new generation of advanced reactors under design,” the INL said.

TREAT can produce bursts of energy that are several times more powerful than conditions found in a commercial reactor, allowing fuel performance under extreme conditions – such as a simulated accident situation – to be studied. Exposing fuels to extreme conditions inside such a facility enables more resilient and long-lasting fuels to be developed. Transient testing of nuclear fuels has been likened to high-impact car crash testing, which has helped to advance safety technologies in the automobile industry.

The first fuel experiment, which was performed on 18 September, is part of a series that will culminate in testing of new fuels being developed for use in light-water reactors by the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuels programme. Data from the experiment will be compared to past tests conducted at TREAT and other historic research facilities to verify modern experiment protocols and demonstrate the performance of instrumentation.

View the full story at World Nuclear News.