Further US grant for Framatome EATF development

16 January 2019

Framatome has received a USD49 million, 28-month grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to accelerate the development and commercialisation of enhanced accident tolerant fuel (EATF).

A Framatome ATF assembly (Image: Framatome)

Accident-tolerant fuel (ATF) designs enhance performance during normal operations at nuclear power plants and provide operators with more time to respond in the event of loss of active cooling.

Framatome is developing both near- and long-term EATF solutions for all types of nuclear power plants. The integrated near-term solution incorporates both chromia-enhanced pellets and chromium-coated cladding. These fuel pellets and clad coating have characteristics that, when combined with other recent advancements, will deliver value to the existing fleet of reactors through a variety of measures, including operator flexibility and fuel efficiency.

Chromium coating is a feature of the ATF design that Framatome has been developing for several years as part of the DOE's Enhanced Accident-Tolerant Fuel programme, which aims to commercialise ATF by 2025. This work also builds on several years of collaboration with its European partners, CEA and EDF in France, as well as the Gösgen nuclear power plant in Switzerland.

The addition of chromium coating to the fuel's existing alloy cladding offers advantages, including improved resistance to oxidation at high temperatures, reduced hydrogen generation in accident conditions, and increased wear and debris resistance in normal operation, according to Framatome.

In addition to this near-term work, Framatome continues research on a silicon carbide-based cladding with even greater potential. The ongoing research and development of these state-of-the-art materials and related manufacturing processes are critical to safe, clean and more efficient power generation.

Framatome said the funds from this DOE grant build on a USD10 million, two-year grant that it received from the DOE in 2016, and 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.

"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 Center. "With the support of DOE, Congress and our industry partners, we are ahead of schedule in making this fuel technology available to nuclear power plants so that they can continue to provide clean, efficient electricity."

In July 2017, it was announced that four test lead assemblies of Framatome fuel featuring chromia-doped fuel pellets and chromium-coated fuel cladding will be loaded into unit 2 of the Vogtle plant in Georgia early this year.

Framatome is one of three companies - the others are Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) and Westinghouse - working with the DOE to commercialise their ATF concepts by 2025. The DOE's ATF programme was launched following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident and aims to demonstrate performance by inserting ATF technology into a commercial reactor by 2022, and bring advanced fuel concepts to market by 2025. This accelerated timeframe is critical if ATFs are to benefit the current fleet of operating nuclear reactors, many of which are currently licensed to operate into the 2030s.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News