Framatome said that advanced nuclear fuel designs which use silicon carbide in the fuel channel can enhance the safety and fuel performance of nuclear power plants.
Under the cooperation agreement, Framatome and General Atomics will also test materials for fuel applications to help the removal of approximately 40% of the zirconium metal in BWR fuel designs, a statement said.
The French company is conducting this research as part of its enhanced accident tolerant fuel programme (PROtect).
Framatome said that it delivered in 2019 lead fuel assemblies with PROtect technologies to two US reactors and one European reactor. The assemblies included Framatome’s chromium-coated cladding and chromia-enhanced pellets technologies.
According to Framatome, silicon carbide could replace zirconium alloys without adverse impact on fuel efficiency. The compound is expected to offer risk reduction and safety improvement for BWR fuels, Framatome said.
The company said silicon carbide provides substantial temperature and oxidation resistance to reduce the amount of hydrogen that could be generated in the event of a severe accident.
Silicon carbide, also known as carborundum, is a compound of silicon and carbon used as a semiconductor. It occurs very rarely in nature in a mineral called moissanite.