Framatome has signed a collaboration agreement with EDF to test its PROtect enhanced accident tolerant fuel (EATF) technology. Under the agreement, four lead fuel assemblies will be loaded into one of EDF's French reactors by the end of this year.

(Image: Framatome)

Accident-tolerant fuel is a term used to describe new technologies that enhance the tolerance of light-water reactor fuel under severe accident conditions as well as offering improvements to reactor performance and economics. Such fuels may incorporate the use of new materials and designs for cladding and fuel pellets.

Supported by the France Relance recovery plan and the US Department of Energy (DOE), Framatome's EATF technology is based on advanced chromium coating applied to zirconium alloy cladding, and chromia-enhanced fuel pellets.

PROtect EATF is more tolerant to loss of active cooling in the reactor core for longer periods because its reduced oxidation behaviour increases "coping time", the company said. The fuel also offers improved performance during normal operations, allowing operators greater flexibility and efficiency.

Framatome, EDF and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) have collectively worked on the chromium coated cladding concept for nearly a decade. Framatome's development efforts led to the first lead fuel rods inserted in a Swiss and US reactor in 2019, followed by the first complete fuel assembly comprised of 100% chromia-enhanced pellets and chromium-coated rods delivered and inserted at a US nuclear power plant in the spring outage of 2021, and the recent completion of the second 18-month fuel cycle in a US operating plant. In total, Framatome's PROtect EATF solutions have been implemented in four different nuclear power plants in the USA and one in Europe.

These lead fuel assemblies will be manufactured in Framatome facilities in France. It said the results obtained during the EDF irradiation campaign will serve to confirm the performance of this technology in a French reactor and support the final approval from the French nuclear safety regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire.

"Our ambitious PROtect programme puts us at the forefront of developing and implementing inherently safe fuel technologies for long-term plant operations," said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of Framatome's Fuel Business Unit. "This agreement cements our position and confirms the confidence of our customers in our EATF technology, developed together with the knowledge, skills and expertise of our partners and leaders across the nuclear sector."

Three vendors - Framatome, GE Hitachi with GNF, and Westinghouse - are working with DOE to develop new fuels under its Accident Tolerant Fuel Program.

In July last year, Westinghouse and EDF agreed to jointly explore the functionalities of Westinghouse's EnCore ATF technology. Westinghouse said it will study the use of the fuel in an EDF reactor for potential deployment across the EDF nuclear fleet after 2030. The company said it would deliver EnCore assemblies with lead test rods to EDF from its fuel fabrication facility in Västerås, Sweden, by 2023.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Saturday, 01 July 2023
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