KAERI exports high performance nuclear fuel pellet to an organization in the United States.
Scientists in Korea developed technologies for dramatically improving performance of nuclear fuel pellet, a core material for nuclear power plants. Moreover, excellence of the new technology is recognized in the international community as it is set to be exported to a leading research institution in the United States.
The Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (Minister: Choi Mun-kee) said that Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI, President: Jung Youn-ho) concluded a contract with Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the United States to export database of high performance nuclear fuel pellets for light water reactor developed by a research team led by Dr. Gu Yang-hyeon at KAERI’s Light Water Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Technology Development Department. Dr. Gu Yang-hyeon’s team is developing nuclear fuel pellets for light water reactor in the ‘Next Generation Nuclear Fuel Technology Development Project’ as part of the Nuclear Power R&D Program of the Science, ICT & Future Planning Ministry. The database of the high performance nuclear fuel pellets will be provided to EPRI for $630,000.
In coordination with Central Research Institute in Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), which is a member of EPRI, KAERI proposed to provide the database of the high performance nuclear fuel pellets to EPRI, and the U.S. organization accepted the proposal after rigorous evaluation by international specialists.
As a research organization with over 1,000 members in 40 countries consisting of companies and organizations related to electric power, including nuclear power, EPRI is providing members with various services, including information on technology trends and development of technologies. In addition to its own R&D activities, EPRI purchases new technologies developed by other organizations across the world, which it deems to be important, and shares them with its members.
KAERI is currently conducting combustion performance tests of high performance nuclear fuel pellets in its research reactor, Hanaro, and it will provide database of results from combustion performance tests to EPRI by 2017. Since 2007, KAERI has been developing high performance nuclear fuel pellets that can improve safety and economic efficiency of nuclear fuel, and it obtained patents for new technologies in Korea and other countries. It aims to develop commercialization technology after 2015 when it completes verification of combustion performance.
The pellet built by compressing and heating uranium dioxide (UO₂), a fissile material, becomes nuclear fuel after it is enveloped by metal jacket crown. In order to improve safety and economic efficiency of nuclear fuel, fission gas should not be emitted to outside the metal jacket crown that envelopes pellet and the jacket crown should not be transformed even by sharp change in temperature.
Scientists in Korea and other countries are concentrating efforts on developing high performance nuclear fuel pellets by adding tiny amount of additives to uranium. The key to developing high performance nuclear fuel pellet is to enlarge size of crystal grain while reducing the amount of additives since efficiency of nuclear fuel is improved when the content of uranium is higher, though additives improve gas capturing capability of pellets by increasing size of the crystal grain.
Compared to pellets developed by leading organizations in other countries, the high performance pellet for light water reactor developed by KAERI is superior in capability of capturing fission gas and transmutability in high temperature, while adding smaller amount of additives.
KAERI expects that export of its new technologies to EPRI will serve as a chance of expanding export base and reinforcing international cooperation for research by apprising nuclear power organizations across the world of excellence of its proprietary high performance pellet technologies.