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What are Types of Accident Tolerant Fuels – Definition

There are five different classes of cladding designs were the object of the review. The fuel designs covered by the Task Force on Advanced Fuel Designs consist of three different concepts. Types of Accident Tolerant Fuels

Accident tolerant fuels (ATF) are a series of new nuclear fuel concepts, researched in order to improve fuel performance during normal operation, transient conditions, and accident scenarios, such as loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) or reactivity-initiated accidents (RIA). Following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, a review of fuel behaviour has been initiated. Zirconium alloy clad fuel operates successfully to high burnup and is the result of 40 years of continuous development and improvement. However, under severe accident conditions, the high temperature zirconium–steam interaction can be a major source of damage to the power plant.

These upgrades include:

  • specially designed additives to standard fuel pellets intended to improve various properties and performance
  • robust coatings applied to the outside of standard claddings intended to reduce corrosion, increase wear resistance, and reduce the production of hydrogen under high-temperature (accident) conditions
  • development of completely new fuel designs with ceramic cladding and different fuel materials

Current fuel cladding is the outer layer of the fuel rods, standing between the reactor coolant and the nuclear fuel (i.e. fuel pellets). It is made of a corrosion-resistant material with low absorption cross section for thermal neutrons (~ 0.18 × 10–24 cm2), usually zirconium alloy. It prevents radioactive fission products from escaping the fuel matrix into the reactor coolant and contaminating it. Cladding constitute one of barriers in ‘defence-in-depth‘ approach, therefore its coolability is one of key safety aspects.

Special Reference: Nuclear Energy Agency, State-of-the-Art Report on Light Water Reactor Accident-Tolerant Fuel. NEA No.7317, OECD, 2018.

Types of Accident Tolerant Fuels

Advanced Fuel Clad

While current nuclear fuel designs have operated very well under normal plant conditions, existing nuclear fuel designs can be challenged when put under beyond-design-basis severe-accident scenarios. In the event of such conditions, the long-term loss of coolant and the resulting high temperatures of the fuel can lead to the degradation of the fuel cladding and the early release of fission products.

Proposed ATF concepts seek to reduce severe accident (SA) risks by increasing the coping time available to operators for accident response, reducing the extent and rate of heat and hydrogen production from high-temperature (HT) steam oxidation, or reducing severe accident consequences by enhancing fission product (FP) retention. The desired attributes for a practical ATF cladding material are quite rigorous. In addition to good material properties at high temperature, the candidate material must be compatible with current fuel/core designs, and provide economic operation, including good neutronics. Moreover, from an operational perspective it must be highly reliable, corrosion resistance, and exhibit low embrittlement at high burnups.

According to the NEA report, five different classes of cladding designs were the object of the review:

  • Coated and improved Zr-alloys,
  • Advanced steels,
  • Refractory metals,
  • SiC and SiC/SiC-composite claddings
  • non-fuel components such as SiC/SiC channel boxes or accident-tolerant control rods (ATCR).

Advanced Fuel Pellets

 According to the NEA report, the fuel designs covered by the Task Force on Advanced Fuel Designs consist of three different concepts:

  • Improved UO2 fuel. Regarding the improved UO2 fuel, this particular design was divided into two sub-concepts, such as oxide-doped UO2 and high-thermal conductivity UO2 (designed by adding metallic or ceramic dopant).
  • High-density fuel.
  • Encapsulated fuel (TRISO-SiC-composite pellets).
Materials Science:

U.S. Department of Energy, Material Science. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
U.S. Department of Energy, Material Science. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 2 and 2. January 1993.
William D. Callister, David G. Rethwisch. Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction 9th Edition, Wiley; 9 edition (December 4, 2013), ISBN-13: 978-1118324578.
Eberhart, Mark (2003). Why Things Break: Understanding the World by the Way It Comes Apart. Harmony. ISBN 978-1-4000-4760-4.
Gaskell, David R. (1995). Introduction to the thermodynamics of Materials (4th ed.). Taylor and Francis Publishing. ISBN 978-1-56032-992-3.
González-Viñas, W. & Mancini, H.L. (2004). An Introduction to Materials Science. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-07097-1.
Ashby, Michael; Hugh Shercliff; David Cebon (2007). Materials: engineering, science, processing and design (1st ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-7506-8391-3.
J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.

See above:
Accident Tolerant Fuel

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