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Title: Phase 1A Final Report for the AREVA Team Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuels Concepts

In response to the Department of Energy (DOE) funded initiative to develop and deploy lead fuel assemblies (LFAs) of Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) into a US reactor within 10 years, AREVA put together a team to develop promising technologies for improved fuel performance during off normal operations. This team consisted of the University of Florida (UF) and the University of Wisconsin (UW), Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), Duke Energy and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This team brought broad experience and expertise to bear on EATF development. AREVA has been designing; manufacturing and testing nuclear fuel for over 50 years and is one of the 3 large international companies supplying fuel to the nuclear industry. The university and National Laboratory team members brought expertise in nuclear fuel concepts and materials development. Duke and TVA brought practical utility operating experience. This report documents the results from the initial “discovery phase” where the team explored options for EATF concepts that provide enhanced accident tolerance for both Design Basis (DB) and Beyond Design Basis Events (BDB). The main driver for the concepts under development were that they could be implemented in a 10 year time frame and be economically viable and acceptable tomore » the nuclear fuel marketplace. The economics of fuel design make this DOE funded project very important to the nuclear industry. Even incremental changes to an existing fuel design can cost in the range of $100M to implement through to LFAs. If this money is invested evenly over 10 years then it can take the fuel vendor several decades after the start of the project to recover their initial investment and reach a breakeven point on the initial investment. Step or radical changes to a fuel assembly design can cost upwards of $500M and will take even longer for the fuel vendor to recover their investment. With the projected lifetimes of the current generation of nuclear power plants large scale investment by the fuel vendors is difficult to justify. Specific EATF enhancements considered by the AREVA team were; Improved performance in DB and BDB conditions; Reduced release to the environment in a catastrophic accident; Improved performance during normal operating conditions; Improved performance if US reactors start to load follow; Equal or improved economics of the fuel; and Improvements to the fuel behavior to support future transportation and storage of the used nuclear fuel (UNF). In pursuit of the above enhancements, EATF technology concepts that our team considered were; Additives to the fuel pellets which included; Chromia doping to increase fission gas retention. Chromia doping has the potential to improve load following characteristics, improve performance of the fuel pellet during clad failure, and potentially lock up cesium into the fuel matrix; Silicon Carbide (SiC) Fibers to improve thermal heat transfer in normal operating conditions which also improves margin in accident conditions and the potential to lock up iodine into the fuel matrix; Nano-diamond particles to enhance thermal conductivity; Coatings on the fuel cladding; and Nine coatings on the existing Zircaloy cladding to increase coping time and reduce clad oxidation and hydrogen generation during accident conditions, as well as reduce hydrogen pickup and mitigate hydride reorientation in the cladding. To facilitate the development process AREVA adopted a formal “Gate Review Process” (GR) that was used to review results and focus resources onto promising technologies to reduce costs and identify the technologies that would potentially be carried forward to LFAs within a 10 year period. During the initial discovery phase of the project AREVA took the decision to be relatively hands off and allow our university and National Laboratory partners to be free thinking and consider options that would not be constrained by preconceived ideas from the fuel vendor. To counter this and to keep the partners focused, the GR process was utilized. During this GR process each of the team members presented their findings to a board made up of technical experts from utilities, fuel manufacturing experts, fuel technical experts, and fuel research and development (R&D) experts. During the initial 2 years of the project there were several major accomplishments. These accomplishments, along with the implications for successfully implementing EATF, are; The experimental spark plasma sintering process (SPS) process was successfully used to produce fuel pellets containing either 10% SiC whiskers or nano-diamond particles. The ability to use this process enables the thermal margin enhancements of the fuel additives to be realized. Without the SPS process, the conventional process cannot support adding pellet additives in the required quantities; Coatings of Ti2AlC were successfully applied to Zircaloy-4 cladding. Testing of Ti2AlC coatings at Loss of Cooling Accident (LOCA) conditions showed reduced cladding oxidation compared to present un-coated Zircaloy-4 cladding. This achievement allows the presently used cladding system to be retained so that the 10 year schedule can be met. Having to implement a new cladding material will extend the development schedule beyond 10 years; Several documents were produced to support future development, testing, and licensing of EATF, including a design requirements traceability matrix, a draft business plan, a draft test plan, a draft regulatory plan, and the acceptance criteria for lead fuel assembly insertion into a commercial reactor. This preparatory work lays the foundation for ensuring the future development plans address all the areas required to test, license, and manufacture the new EATF; and In addition, the high velocity oxy-fuel and electrophoretic deposition (EPD) coating application processes were dropped from further consideration due to their inability to meet manufacturing criteria. This allows the resources to be focused on the most promising EATF concepts identified. Future development opportunities that were identified during this work include; The use of SiC or diamond requires that a new pellet production technique (Spark Plasma Sintering), be developed. This entails investment in developing, proving and implementing a new commercial pellet production process. Development of the process to apply thinner coatings is required; Coatings cannot be too “thick” or they will displace a significant volume of water in the core resulting in reduced thermal hydraulic characteristics; Application of the coating at high temperature can affect the Zircaloy substrate. This will require the development and implementation of a new cladding coating manufacturing process; and Replace the Cold Spray (CS) cladding coating application with the Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) process to eliminate duplication of work and provide greater control over coating thicknesses. This can result in a reduction in the final cycle economic penalty of coatings.« less
  1. AREVA Federal Services LLC, Charlotte, NC (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
AREVA Federal Services LLC, Charlotte, NC (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE), Fuel Cycle Technologies (NE-5)
Country of Publication:
United States