ORNL License Method for 3D Printing Nuclear Reactor Components

Above: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation has licensed a new method to 3D print nuclear reactor components/Image credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, US Dept. of Energy

The US Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) revealed that he authorized a new method to 3D print nuclear reactor components. The Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, or USNC will incorporate this method to further its mission of developing and deploying nuclear power generating equipment that is safe, commercially competitive and simple to use.

This new method was developed by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The technology uses a sophisticated additive manufacturing technique to print refractory materials, which are highly resistant to extreme heat and degradation, into the complex-shaped components needed for advanced nuclear reactor designs.

Kurt Terrani, Executive Vice President of USNC (formerly ORNL) said, “This technology is ideal for fabricating structural and core components for USNC’s advanced reactor designs.”

Terrani came to USNC from ORNL where he was the technical director of the lab’s Transformational Challenge Reactor program, leveraging the lab’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility expertise with nuclear technology leadership to pilot the concept. of 3D printing components for energy applications.

“It is gratifying to see the transition from a basic concept to a more mature technology that is being actively developed and deployed by our industry partners,” said Jeremy Busby, director of the Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Division at ORNL. . “That’s exactly the kind of impact ORNL is striving to have for our energy portfolio.”

3D printing of nuclear reactor components

USNC’s existing advanced nuclear systems are designed to provide the highest levels of safety and reliability, but the company wants to go further.

Terrani added: “We also use materials in our reactor cores that can withstand very harsh environments and high temperatures and do not cause any degradation. We design multiple redundant barriers against any potential radiation release through the fundamental application of nuclear engineering and materials science.

The USNC’s refractory material of choice for nuclear reactor core components is silicon carbide, a high temperature resistant ceramic that has been tested and found to be radiation tolerant. Yet the traditional machining of silicon carbide into parts for a reactor takes so long and costs so much that it is nearly impossible.

The alternative developed by ORNL combines binder jet printing as an additive manufacturing technique and a ceramic production process called chemical vapor infiltration, which will allow USNC to more efficiently manufacture components with the shapes desired complexes, such as fluid channels in a heat exchanger.

“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with ORNL,” said Francesco Venneri, USNC chief executive. “The proximity of the laboratory and its world-class scientists and facilities allows us easy access to expertise in reactor core technologies and additive manufacturing, as well as the latest research in radiation, fuels and materials, all of which benefit USNC’s commitment to bringing safe, reliable and secure nuclear energy to global markets.USNC and ORNL also signed a memorandum of understanding in September on the activities advances in nuclear fuel and reactor development.

Along with Terrani, other inventors of this technology include Brian Jolly and Michael Trammel of ORNL. Through ORNL’s Entrepreneurial Leave Program, Jolly and Trammell joined USNC as Group Leaders for Chemical Vapor Processing and Additive Manufacturing, respectively, to participate in the full commercialization of their intellectual property.


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