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Low-enriched test fuel assemblies passed with flying colors!

31 March '23

Last Friday, March 24, the nuclear researchers of SCK CEN watched with wide eyes and bated breath as the BR2 research reactor was unloaded. Three low-enriched uranium test fuel elements emerged from the reactor core, where they had been for the last 60 days. They served as fuel for the Belgian research reactor for the first time. And they did it with brilliance. This is evidenced by today's positive results.

SCK CEN - BR2 - laagverrijkte splijtstofstaven (2023)

“After each cycle, we thoroughly check each fuel assembly. We are curious to obtain the results, but, just like the previous tests, we expect the fuel assemblies to have remained intact, even under high power,” said project coordinator Jared Wight last Friday. And his expectations were fulfilled, because today positive results came in. "We can confirm that the test fuel elements have passed the test and we can proceed with the development process - as planned." The test fuel elements remained in the reactor core for a total of sixty days. "After that period, they've done the 'hardest work'," explains Jared Wight.

SCK CEN - BR2 - laagverrijkte splijtstofstaven (2023)

Follow-on research

What's still planned? After two reactor cycles, these test fuel elements will continue to follow the typical BR2 fuel cycle. Two of the three fuel elements will then be taken to a specialized SCK CEN laboratory. There, researchers will examine them in detail and test them extensively. "These tests give us the details and validation of the assumptions about the necessary parameters for our safety analysis," said Steven Van Dyck, director of BR2. The third test fuel assembly may remain in the core for a while. “This gives us the opportunity to measure in detail whether our computer models accurately mimic the behavior of the nuclear fuel. That certainty is important for the safe management of the reactor, if we soon switch completely to low-enriched uranium.”

Safety file

All this will feed the safety file submitted to the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control. That nuclear regulatory authority in Belgium must give its blessing on a future fuel switch.

Why switch to fissile material and why is this switch of global importance?

Find out here

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