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People Strong - Innovation Driven

Research and Test Reactors

BWX Technologies, Inc.’s (BWXT) Research Test Reactor (RTR) facility in Lynchburg, Virginia, is a premier supplier of high- and low-enriched uranium, aluminum-clad, plate-type reactor fuel for U.S. universities and national laboratories. The facility has also fabricated plate-type reactor fuel for nuclear reactor test sites throughout the world.

The RTR facility was constructed in 1981 to produce fuel elements for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) laboratory program. Since then, the facility has successfully fabricated over 33 different fuel element designs and delivered more than 8,000 fuel elements.

In supplying research reactor fuel, the facility’s top priority is the quality and reliability of its work and meeting customer delivery requirements. Our capabilities and experience are proof of our commitment:

  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license to process uranium-bearing materials with enrichments up to fully enriched.
  • Highly recognized for a well-defined and rigorous Quality Program compliant with ASME NQA-1, ISO-9000 and 10CFR50, Appendix B.
  • Superior safety record and ratings recognized by the NRC’s Licensee Performance Rating Program.

FABRICATION CAPABILITY

Our strength in the research and test reactor fuel business is manufacturing a high-quality, high-consequence, build-to-print product. We have a commitment to excellence in manufacturing, quality and on-time delivery.

The RTR facility supplies the DOE laboratory program with oxide fuel elements for the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). We provide aluminide fuel elements for the University of Missouri, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at Idaho National Laboratory.

The facility has supplied many low-enriched, uranium-silicide fuel elements to universities such as Purdue University, University of Florida, University of Massachusetts (Lowell) and Georgia Institute of Technology.

The facility has also supplied elements containing low-enriched uranium-silicide fuel to the Japan Materials Testing Reactor and to the Japan Research Reactor 3 and 4, as well as elements containing silicide fuel to several reactors invarious European countries.

NEW HIGH-DENSITY LEU FUEL

BWXT’s RTR facility works closely with the DOE-directed non-proliferation program. In support of the material, management and minimization directive, BWXT is assisting the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory in the development and commercial demonstration of low-enriched uranium (LEU), high density uranium-molybdenum fuel required for the conversion of existing high-enriched uranium (HEU) reactors.

FUEL POWDER 

The facility manufactures fuel powder with uranium enrichments from 19 to 93 weight percent U-235 in aluminide and silicide forms. Fuel powder in oxide
form was fabricated for previous contracts.

COMPACTS AND PLATES

In addition to standard uranium-aluminum matrix fuel compacts, the RTR facility routinely manufactures uranium-aluminum compacts containing boron as a poison. BWXT has experience with fabricating poison into compacts in either a discrete location or as a homogeneously distributed product. We have also produced LEU-molybdenum matrix fuel compacts. Fuel plate production includes flat plates of the type used in the MIT research reactor; curved plates of the type for use in ATR, NIST, and Missouri-type elements; and involute-shaped plates for use in the HFIR.

ELEMENT ASSEMBLIES

BWXT has extensive experience with special element assembly processes including welding, swaging (crimping), pinning, or a combination of joining methods as specified by the customer. A variety of fuel element configurations are currently fabricated in the RTR facility including unique box-type elements and cylindrical-element assemblies. We also have experience with fabricating complex fuel elements containing cadmium wire.

OTHER COMPONENTS

In addition to producing research and test reactor fuel, the RTR facility has experience with manufacturing other reactor components, including graphite reflectors and control rods, as a service to the reactor community.

Related Literature

For more information regarding BWXT's Research & Test Reactors contact:

Gunes Argon
Research & Test Reactor Project Manager

gmpargon@bwxt.com