Yesterday Lightbridge (NASDAQ: LTBR), which is developing an exciting metallic nuclear fuel rod that can both increase reactor output and improve the safety of today’s light water reactor fleet, formally signed onto a joint venture with one of the world’s largest nuclear companies, Framatome (formerly Areva NP). This alliance—called Enfission—will combine Lightbridge’s innovative new technology with the Framatome’s know-how in commercializing and licensing nuclear fuel to bring a truly innovative new product to market over the next few years—a product that can significantly change the economics and of both new and existing plants. Lightbridge CEO Seth Grae said during a January 25 joint venture announcement at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that a “key advantage” of the company’s fuel is that it will help power reactor licensees operate units at costs comparable to or lower than natural gas- or coal-fired generators, as well as wind and solar generation.”

The joint venture signing was an exciting event, chaired by our very own blog author Amy Roma! A video of the statements made at the joint venture signing can be found here. Speakers included the leaders of Lightbridge, Framatome, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and Senator John Warner (Ret). Senator Warner was also the Secretary of the Navy during the time of Admiral Rickover (the oft-known “father” of the US nuclear industry), and the two of them worked closely together to make today’s modern nuclear navy a reality.

The advanced nuclear fuel technology would work in existing and new nuclear reactors, improving their economics by increasing power output and enabling longer fuel cycles. The fuel’s innovative fuel design is markedly safer than the fuel currently used in reactors. Notably, the design could result in:

  • 10 percent power uprate and increase time between refueling outages for existing reactors.
  • 30 percent power uprate without increasing time between refueling outages for new reactors.

Under the 10 percent power uprate model, a customer with an 1100 MWe nuclear reactor would see an estimated annual gross economic benefit of about US$60 million.

The fuel would dramatically improve reactor safety. It is more accident tolerant and safer than current fuel because it:

  • Reduces fuel operating temperature.
  • Does not generate hydrogen gas.
  • Buys more time to restore active cooling during accidents.
  • Improves proliferation resistance of used fuel.
  • Enhances structural integrity of the fuel.

This alliance also showcases the potential for transformative change that can occur when innovative nuclear start-ups team with established experts—something we have blogged about in the past.

Shortly after the signing the CEO of Lightbridge Seth Grae gave a full-throated defense of nuclear power on Fox Business’s Varney and Company, and turned Stuart Varney from a skeptic to a supporter of nuclear power in 3 minutes! Watch the video here to see the dramatic transformation, and the potential next-generation nuclear technologies have to change the public perception of nuclear.