Alternative energy is all the rage these days as the world is consuming more power than ever before. But while countries around the globe are adopting renewable energy policies, the reality is that they remain more expensive than nuclear sources.
In an effort to improve the efficiency and safety of the nuclear industry, IBC Advanced Alloys Corp. (TSX-V:IB) today announced that it has completed the first phase of its research and development project on nuclear fuels - with positive results.
The company, together with Purdue Univeristy and Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES), a member institution of the Texas A&M University System, have been engaged in a mission to develop a nuclear fuel enhanced with beryllium oxide, a rare metal, for commercial use in nuclear power reactors.
The benefit of the enhanced fuel, according to IBC, is that it features a cooler temperature than conventional fuels. While the surface temperature remains the same, the centerline temperature is significantly lowered, meaning the new fuel can be operated at a lower temperature without sacrificing power output. This results in both safety and environmental benefits, as less uranium is required to produce the same amount of power.
This could lead to decreased fuel operating costs, through increased efficiency, as well as reduced fuel consumption.
In a statement released today, IBC said that intial testing of the new fuel shows that it is indeed longer lasting, more efficient and that it "provides a larger safety margin than current nuclear fuels".
"This collaborative nuclear fuels R&D work with Purdue and TEES is developing technology that could positively affect both the nuclear industry and consumers of alternative energy," said president and CEO of IBC, Anthony Dutton.
"This most recent phase of the work confirms our belief that beryllium oxide enhanced fuel will advance global nuclear fuels technology and, as a result, considerably increase demand for beryllium as a rare metal commodity."
The initial testing conducted by the research group included nuclear engineering simulations and thermal modeling, which demonstrated the fuel's potential in Light Water Reactor Systems.
IBC, together with Purdue and TEES, plan to work on developing processing methods in their next phase of research. While the initial results are promising, a significant amount of further work is required before the new fuel can be marketed for commercial use, including prototype irradiation tests.
IBC said it has already filed patents to protect its research efforts, and the company is currently considering industry partners for the next phase of collaboration testing and development.
The beryllium oxide nuclear fuel project was announced in August 2008.
Vancouver-based IBC, with facilities in Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Missouri, manufactures and distributes rare metals-based alloys for a wide range of industries including nuclear energy, automotive, telecommunications and a number of other industrial applications.
The company also owns prospective beryllium properties in the Western US covering approximately 9,500 hectares.