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Title: Results from the DOE Advanced Gas Reactor Fuel Development and Qualification Program

Modular HTGR designs were developed to provide natural safety, which prevents core damage under all design basis accidents and presently envisioned severe accidents. The principle that guides their design concepts is to passively maintain core temperatures below fission product release thresholds under all accident scenarios. This level of fuel performance and fission product retention reduces the radioactive source term by many orders of magnitude and allows potential elimination of the need for evacuation and sheltering beyond a small exclusion area. This level, however, is predicated on exceptionally high fuel fabrication quality and performance under normal operation and accident conditions. Germany produced and demonstrated high quality fuel for their pebble bed HTGRs in the 1980s, but no U.S. manufactured fuel had exhibited equivalent performance prior to the Advanced Gas Reactor (AGR) Fuel Development and Qualification Program. The design goal of the modular HTGRs is to allow elimination of an exclusion zone and an emergency planning zone outside the plant boundary fence, typically interpreted as being about 400 meters from the reactor. To achieve this, the reactor design concepts require a level of fuel integrity that is better than that claimed for all prior US manufactured TRISO fuel, by a few ordersmore » of magnitude. The improved performance level is about a factor of three better than qualified for German TRISO fuel in the 1980’s. At the start of the AGR program, without a reactor design concept selected, the AGR fuel program selected to qualify fuel to an operating envelope that would bound both pebble bed and prismatic options. This resulted in needing a fuel form that could survive at peak fuel temperatures of 1250°C on a time-averaged basis and high burnups in the range of 150 to 200 GWd/MTHM (metric tons of heavy metal) or 16.4 to 21.8% fissions per initial metal atom (FIMA). Although Germany has demonstrated excellent performance of TRISO-coated UO2 particle fuel up to about 10% FIMA and 1150°C, UO2 fuel is known to have limitations because of CO formation and kernel migration at the high burnups, power densities, temperatures, and temperature gradients that may be encountered in the prismatic modular HTGRs. With uranium oxycarbide (UCO) fuel, the kernel composition is engineered to prevent CO formation and kernel migration, which are key threats to fuel integrity at higher burnups, temperatures, and temperature gradients. Furthermore, the recent poor fuel performance of UO2 TRISO fuel pebbles measured in Chinese irradiation testing in Russia and in German pebbles irradiated at 1250°C, and historic data on poorer fuel performance in safety testing of German pebbles that experienced burnups in excess of 10% FIMA [1] have each raised concern about the use of UO2 TRISO above 10% FIMA and 1150°C and the degree of margin available in the fuel system. This continues to be an active area of study internationally.« less
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Conference: 2014 ANS Annual Meeting,Reno, Nevada,06/15/2014,06/19/2014
Research Org:
Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
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Country of Publication:
United States