Posted February 19, 2019 by Ken Canavan and Michele DeWitt
As industry needs evolve, nuclear fuel providers are being called upon to deliver more without compromising safety or reliability. Utilities continue to require robust leak-free fuel performance but now seek increased severe accident tolerance utilizing high-performance materials while realizing the lowest fuel cycle costs possible. Numerous accident tolerant fuel (ATF) designs aim to meet these challenges, but Westinghouse is looking to exceed them and invent a truly amazing, advanced fuel technology.
Westinghouse’s revolutionary EnCore® Fuel program features a suite of short- and long-term products to provide enhanced accident tolerance and improved fuel economics. Upon its introduction we committed to an accelerated delivery schedule to help our customers realize performance and cost benefits as soon as possible. To help us achieve this timeline, Westinghouse was recently awarded $93.6 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This funding, in addition to previous grants totaling more than $30 million, will be used to support the development and implementation of advanced technologies, materials and manufacturing methods to support our EnCore Fuel solutions.
In just 18 months our team of technical and innovation experts has made significant strides towards commercialization. We have completed the manufacturing of lead test rod (LTR) cladding that are treated with improved chromium coating that inhibits the zirconium-steam reaction and increases maximum temperature by up to 300°C. Next the rods will be loaded with Westinghouse’s ADOPTTM fuel pellets as well as uranium silicide pellets we received from our partners at Idaho National Labs in December. Our ADOPT pellets improve fuel cycle economics and pellet clad interaction (PCI) margin, reduce wash-out in the event of a fuel rod leak and reduce fission gas release in a transient scenario. The newly developed uranium silicide pellets have a 17 percent higher density and up to four times higher thermal conductivity, allowing for reduced fuel assembly loadings or longer fuel cycles. The finalized LTRs will be inserted into Exelon Generation’s Byron Unit 2 in the spring of 2019.
In addition to these near-term solutions Westinghouse and General Atomics continue to research and develop silicon carbide cladding for future lead test assemblies (LTAs). Silicon carbide cladding aims to provide significant safety benefits, enabled by its extremely high melting point. It reacts 10,000 times slower with water and steam than zirconium, resulting in minimal generation of heat and hydrogen in beyond-design-basis accident scenarios. We plan to introduce the silicon carbide-cladded LTAs by 2022, and expect to deliver reload quantities as early as 2027.
Chief Technology Officer
Senior Vice President, Nuclear Fuel
Categories: Fuel Reliability