3D printing can also create nuclear fuel and reactor components!

Sina science and technology news on March 3, Beijing time, according to foreign media reports, at present, with the rapid development of metals and high-tech composites, 3D printing technology has made significant progress in aerospace and medical fields, and additive manufacturing is also regarded as the key technology for the production of small and safe next-generation nuclear reactors.

The latest example is the ultra safe nuclear company (USNC) from Seattle, which has obtained a new 3D printing technology license from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This method enables the company to develop a new generation of safe reactors by manufacturing nuclear reactor components that can resist radiation and extreme temperature conditions instead of metals.

Super safe nuclear is manufacturing micro modular reactors, which will cost tens of millions of dollars to deploy, while the current large reactors require billions of dollars. The company plans to deploy its first reactor by 2026. In addition, super safe nuclear is also committed to developing small reactors suitable for nuclear powered rockets. The safety design relies on a solid fuel, which is made of micro ceramic coated uranium fuel particles and wrapped in silicon carbide matrix.

This new 3D printing technology, combined with adhesive spraying printing using a special ceramic process, can make some parts design into new complex geometry, which was impossible to achieve before.

Silicon carbide is a kind of engineering ceramics, which has been used in the fields of tank armor, special electronic equipment and aerospace manufacturing. However, it is difficult to forge complex reactor components with this ceramic material only by traditional methods such as machining or casting.

However, the new 3D printing technology can break through this technical problem. Using this technology can not only produce reactor components faster and more economically, but also design new complex geometric structures for some components. The value orientation of super safe nuclear company can be summarized into two points: first, design intrinsically safe and highly advanced nuclear energy system; The second is to use highly safe and high temperature resistant materials as fuel. Silicon carbide 3D printing is a technology that offers new possibilities, but it also requires a thorough review to ensure that the manufacturing materials and their properties meet strict nuclear licensing and regulatory requirements.

In fact, 3D printing is nothing new in the manufacturing field of nuclear industry. In 2017, Siemens became the first company in the world to install 3D printing components in nuclear power plants. A small metal component for 3D printing was used on the fire pump of a nuclear power plant in Slovenia. Since then, others have invested more and larger 3D printing components in commercial reactors. (Ye Qingcheng)