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​​The Hot Fuel Examination Facility (HFEF)

​​HFEF is Idaho National Laboratory's flagship facility for conducting post-irradiation examinations (PIE) of fuels and materials. HFEF, located at the Materials and Fuels Complex, is a national research asset with the largest inert atmosphere hot cell dedicated to nuclear materials research in the U.S.

HFEF provides the ability to remotely handle and perform detailed nondestructive and destructive examination of highly irradiated fuel and material samples. Its argon-atmosphere hot cell, labs and special equipment handle a variety of fuel forms, including tiny particles, four-foot research reactor plates and full-sized commercial rods. HFEF supports INL's mission of research and development of safer and more efficient fuel designs.​

Key Capabilities

  • ​HFEF has two large, shielded hot cells. The main cell, which is 70 by 30 feet, is stainless steel-lined. It's fitted with two 5-ton cranes and 15 workstations, each with a 4-foot-thick window of oil-filled glass and a pair of remote manipulators. The second hot cell is an air cell used to decontaminate materials and equipment. 

  • Laser puncture and gas collection with the gas assay sample and recharge (GASR) from fuel samples helps researchers gain needed information on fission gas and helium release. 

  • Precision gamma scanning (PGS) allows scientists to precisely determine the location of radioactive elements in fuel and material samples. 

  • The fuel accident condition simulator (FACS) furnace enables fuel and material sample testing under worst-case scenarios involving temperatures of up to 2,000 C for extended periods. This allows scientists to understand performance and improve the safety of fuel designs. 

  • The Neutron Radiography Reactor is a 250 kW steady state Training Research Isotopes General Atomics (TRIGA) reactor co-located within and adjacent to HFEF. It is equipped with two separate radiography stations for neutron radiography of fuel and materials. 

  • Fuel refabrication for testing in the Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) facility.​​

  • ​​​Nondestructive and destructive post-irradiation examination of irradiated samples in two large, heavily shielded hot cells.

Basic Capabilities

  • Nondestructive and destructive post-irradiation examination of irradiated samples in two large, heavily shielded hot cells.

  • Mechanical testing of irradiated fuels and materials 

  • Bench-scale electrochemical separations research. 

  • Precision milling, welding, and machining. 

  • Handling and loading facilities capable of receiving large shipping casks and fuel assemblies up to 13 feet long. 

  • Furnaces for simulating accident conditions at temperatures up to 2,000 C for extended periods. ​ 

  • Neutron film and digital radiography​

  • Neutron tomography

  • Neutron diffraction

  • Visual examination 

  • Dimensional inspection/contact profilometry

  • Gamma scanning/gamma tomography

  • Eddy current

  • Gas pycnometry​

Click here for a PDF version of this page.
NRADHot Fuel Examination Facility
PGSHot Fuel Examination Facility
GASRHot Fuel Examination FacilityGASR
FACSHot Fuel Examination Facility
Hot Fuel Examination Facility


​​​Click here for a 360 tour of HFEF.