Framatome said on 15 January that it had received a $49 million, 28-month grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) speed up the development and commercialisation of enhanced accident tolerant fuel.
“EATF designs represent the next evolution in technologies that will support today’s and tomorrow’s nuclear reactors and unlock value in Framatome’s products and the existing nuclear fleet,” said Bob Freeman, vice president, Contracts and Services, North America, Framatome Fuel Commercial and Customer Centre.
Freeman noted that thanks to the support of DOE, Congress and industry partners Framatome is “ahead of schedule" in making this fuel technology available to nuclear power plants.
Framatome is developing both near- and long-term accident tolerant fuel solutions for all types of nuclear power plants. The near-term solution incorporates chromia-enhanced pellets and chromium-coated cladding. These pellets and cladding have characteristics that, when combined with other improvements, can help improve flexibility and fuel efficiency.
In addition to this near-term work, Framatome said it is continuing research on a silicon carbide-based cladding which has even greater potential.
The funds from this DOE grant build on a $10 million, two-year DOE grant that Framatome received in 2016. They will contribute to the advancement of laboratory testing and data collection, as well as irradiation test programmes. Additionally, the grant will support further development of advanced manufacturing processes and the acceleration of long-term EATF solutions, including silicon carbide fuel cladding.
Framatome said its EATF programme builds on the collective knowledge, skills and expertise of leaders across the global nuclear sector, including US national laboratories, utilities, university programmes, industry organisations, and European research and worldwide partners. It added that DOE’s accident tolerant fuel programme had been a driving force in its efforts to accelerate product development to better support the existing nuclear fleet.
DOE launched its ATF programme following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. It aims to demonstrate performance by inserting ATF technology into a commercial reactor by 2022 and bring advanced fuel concepts to market by 2025.
In July 2017, Framatome announced that four test lead assemblies featuring chromia-doped fuel pellets and chromium-coated fuel cladding would be loaded into Vogtle 2 in Georgia in 2019.
Two other vendors are working with DOE to commercialise their ATF: Global Nuclear Fuel and Westinghouse.
Similar research is underway in Russia. Russian fuel company TVEL has listed four types of ATF being developed by Russian scientists. The most advanced, a heat-resistant coating based on chromium for fuel rod claddings, is undergoing reactor tests at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad.