Fuels, Reactors and Reprocessing

The Fuel, Reactors & Reprocessing capability consists of three teams providing technical support (commercial work, R&D, nuclear foresight & advice) to a wide range of customers including the UK government.

Reactor Design and Separation Science – Reactor Core Technology

The key expertise in the team is fundamentally powder and fuel pellet processing and micro analysis of the material. The pellet process capability involves milling fuel feedstocks of specific Westinghouse specifications and then pressing the powder into pellets prior to sintering. After grinding the pellet to a specific diameter, the pellet can be subjected to density tests, analysis under electron-microscopy, mechanical properties can be tested along with the powders themselves.

The team also has a rig to look at novel coated fuel particles and works with universities on National Programmes looking at new accident tolerant fuels.
The SEM capability can analyse materials at the micro-structure level and gather structural and corrosion information.

A potential area for growth is in NDA adoption of a Fuel Line to manufacture French-based MIMAS fuel. This would focus some activity at Central Lab in conjunction with the glovebox skills in the Separation Science Team.
These skills have also been put to use in the past non-traditional fuel areas like remediation where knowledge of powders and uranium metal are required


  • Arc Melter (primarily used to produce small quantities of U3Si2)
  • Hex Reaction Rig (to investigate the fabrication of advanced fuels, such as silicide and nitrides directly from UF6¬)
  • Coated Particle Fuel Rig (the UK’s only capability to make fuel kernels)
  • Pelleting Equipment (crushers, mills, pellet presses, sintering furnaces, grinder) housed in inert gloveboxes, which can be used to produce pellets from raw material, such as that produced from the arc Melter/hex rig
  • Microscope Sample Preparation Facility (mounting and subsequent polishing of active and non-active samples from throughout the nuclear industry, including ceramics, metals, cements and grouts)
  • Optical and Scanning Electron Microscopes

Collaborations: Cambridge, Imperial, Lancaster, Bristol, Sheffield, Liverpool via various BEIS and EPSRC funded projects. Some NNL sponsored PhDs AT Oxford and Bristol.