French nuclear company Framatome and TUM have signed an agreement to establish the industrialisation process of molybdenum-uranium (U-Mo) monolithic fuel for the TUM-operated Forshungs-Neutronenquelle Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II) research reactor in Germany.

In a press statement, Framatome said that its CERCA Research & Innovation Laboratory (CRIL), in cooperation with TUM, developed the key steps of the manufacturing process for a high-quality U-Mo fuel, including the manufacturing of small-scale prototypes, establishing a qualification procedure and installing a pilot line in its research facility in Romans. The company added that the fuel will be vital for the continued operation of the FRM II reactor in the long term.

François Gauché, vice-president of CERCA at Framatome, said: “We have been working on this project since 2019 and we are proud to celebrate this important milestone with our client. Our teams rose to the challenge of developing a high-tech fuel to meet the needs of research reactors and ensure their sustainability. We are now ready to take this to the next level and manufacture this innovative fuel.”

The FRM II research reactor uses highly enriched uranium fuel to generate a dense neutron flux for scientific experiments and the production of medical radioisotopes. A few years ago, TUM worked on the feasibility of a fuel based on low-enriched uranium while ensuring the reactors’ performance did not noticeably change. In 2019, TUM contracted Framatome to develop the U-Mo foils manufacturing technique to support the existing technology of embedded foils in a cladding of aluminium.

Dr Christian Pfleiderer, scientific director of FRM II, said: “FRM II and Framatome have been working since 2019 to set up a European production line for monolithic U-Mo fuel. The hard work of our teams has paid off. This new fuel is the guarantee for a reliable and sustainable supply of neutrons for research and innovation.”

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