TRIGA International recently started fabricating fuel for the U.S. Department of Energy’s MARVEL microreactor project at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Office of Nuclear Energy said.

MARVEL is expected to be one of the first new reactors built at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in more than four decades and will be used to advance new reactor technologies. The first shipment of fuel is expected to be delivered in spring 2025. Fuel loading for MARVEL is anticipated to occur in 2026, with the microreactor expected to be online by 2027.  

TRIGA International is a joint venture between Framatome and General Atomics and is the only TRIGA fuel supplier in the world. The company was awarded an approximately $8.4 million contract in November to produce 37 TRIGA fuel elements for the MARVEL project and started the fabrication process at its facility in Romans, France late last month. The fuel created for MARVEL is similar to the TRIGA fuel used in university reactors for research and hands-on training, the Office of Nuclear Energy said.

“Securing the fuel for the MARVEL microreactor project addresses a primary technical challenge,” said Dr. John Jackson, the national technical director for DOE’s microreactor program. “The initiation of fuel fabrication represents another tangible step toward making this exciting test platform a reality.” 

MARVEL achieved 90 percent final design last year, after which the DOE said the project could move forward with fabrication and construction. A sodium-potassium-cooled microreactor that will generate 85 kW of thermal energy, MARVEL is expected to be completed in early-2025. The Department said it will be built inside the Transient Reactor Test Facility at INL with future plans to connect it to a microgrid.

MARVEL will be used to help in demonstrating microreactor applications, evaluating systems for remote monitoring and developing autonomous control technologies for new reactors.

The DOE microreactor program plans to submit MARVEL’s preliminary safety analysis report for review later this summer as part of the DOE authorization process.   

The project is also testing a full-scale, non-electric prototype of the reactor in Pennsylvania to gather data on the system’s coolant flow and power generation to ensure the reactor will perform as expected.  

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