International Beryllium Signs Collaborative Research Agreement with Purdue University to Develop Safer and More Efficient Uranium Oxide Beryllium Oxide Nuclear Fueladmin
Wednesday, August 6th 2008
International Beryllium Corporation is pleased to announce that it has signed a collaborative research agreement (the “Agreement”) with Purdue University (“Purdue”) to advance the university’s existing nuclear fuels research program and to develop a new type of beryllium oxide nuclear fuel that is longer lasting, more efficient and safer than current nuclear fuels. The objective of the research is to develop for commercial use an enhanced uranium oxide beryllium oxide nuclear fuel for both current and future nuclear power reactors.
Existing work by Purdue nuclear engineers has shown that an advanced uranium oxide beryllium oxide (UO2 – BeO) nuclear fuel could potentially save billions of dollars annually by lasting longer and burning more efficiently than conventional nuclear fuels while at the same time dramatically impacting the demand for beryllium (Be) and beryllium oxide (BeO). In addition to the cost savings, an advanced UO2 – BeO nuclear fuel could also contribute significantly to the operational safety of both current and future nuclear reactors due to its superior thermal conductivity and associated decrease in risks of overheating or meltdown.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Purdue on this exciting and potentially transformational research into nuclear fuels,” said Anthony Dutton, President and CEO of IB. “We fundamentally believe that multi-oxide and BeO fuels are the way of the future and will be the foundation of a more efficient, economically sound and safer nuclear power industry. By supporting Purdue’s ongoing nuclear fuels research,” continued Dutton, “we aim to make an advanced UO2 – BeO fuel commercially accessible and to enhance the value of our strategic assets for both our shareholders and the nuclear fuels industry.”
Under the terms of the Agreement, Purdue has granted to IB an option at IB’s sole discretion, to enter into either a non-exclusive royalty-free license for commercial application to the intellectual property relating to the development of an advanced beryllium oxide nuclear fuel (the “IP”) as developed by Purdue under the Agreement, or an exclusive royalty-bearing license to the IP up to a mutually agreed maximum royalty amount. Pursuant to the Agreement, Purdue has proposed a maximum 24-month research program with an estimated budget which will be the sole responsibility of IB and which will be paid by IB on a quarterly installment basis.
The research project will be led by Dr. Shripad Revankar, a professor of nuclear engineering at Purdue. He will be assisted by Dr. Sean McDeavitt, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at Texas A&M University. In addition, Dr. Alvin Solomon, a professor emeritus at Purdue’s School of Nuclear Engineering, and an early pioneer in the field of high thermal conductivity nuclear fuels, will act as a consultant to the project. Drs. Solomon, Revankar and McDeavitt are leaders in the field of advanced nuclear fuels research and have published extensively in a variety of peer-reviewed scientific journals and have presented at a number of international nuclear fuels symposiums and conferences.
“The new fuel,” explained Dr. Revankar, “could very possibly be used in current nuclear power reactors as well as next generation reactors which are already in the prototype stage. For either type of reactor,” continued Dr. Revankar, “multioxide high thermal conductivity fuels are much safer as well as being more efficient requiring the fuel rods to be changed less frequently.”
In a recent article focused on advanced UO2 – BeO fuel research, Dr. Solomon said, “Although today’s oxide fuels are very stable and safe, a major problem is that they do not conduct heat well, limiting the power and causing fuel pellets to crack and degrade prematurely, necessitating replacement before the fuel has been entirely used. The beryllium oxide is like a heat pipe that sucks the heat out and helps to more efficiently cool the fuel pellet. If you can operate at a lower temperature, you can use the fuel pellets for a longer time, burning up more of the fuel, which is very important from an economic point of view. Lower temperatures also mean safer, more flexible reactor operation.”
Purdue led the early research into UO2 – BeO fuel, which is intended to solve the inherent problem of low thermal conductivity of existing UO2 fuel. The low thermal conductivity leads to a large temperature gradient across the fuel pellet, which limits the operational performance of nuclear reactors due to thermal stresses that cause pellet cladding interaction and the release of fission product gases.
An enhanced thermal conductivity UO2 – BeO fuel would decrease maximum fuel temperatures and facilitate a reduction in pellet cladding interaction through lessening thermal stresses that result in fuel cracking, relocation and swelling. Additionally, fission gas release would be decreased allowing for higher fuel burn-up and reactor safety would be greatly improved with a faster thermal response and less stored energy in the fuel pins.
International Beryllium Corporation is a global exploration, development and manufacturing company focused on beryllium, beryllium oxides and beryllium master alloys. Beryllium and related alloys are used in a broad range of specialized industrial applications such as nuclear power, defense, electronics and automotive. International Beryllium’s common shares are traded on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol IB.