Leader in nuclear energy solutions, Framatome, is teaming with General Atomics, a US-based defense and diversified technologies company, to study the application of silicon carbide for boiling water reactor (BWR) nuclear fuel designs.

Advanced nuclear fuel designs using silicon carbide in the fuel channel will enhance the safety and fuel performance of nuclear plant operations. Framatome is conducting this research as part of its PROtect enhanced accident tolerant fuel (EATF) program.

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Framatome and General Atomics will test silicon-carbide materials for fuel channel applications to facilitate the removal of approximately 40 per cent of the zirconium metal in boiling light-water reactors (BWR) fuel designs.

This 16-inch-long model represents a simplified and scaled-down representation of a channel box crafted from SiGA silicon carbide composite. Courtesy General Atomics

Silicon carbide can replace zirconium alloys without adverse impact on fuel efficiency. At the same time, it provides substantial temperature and oxidation resistance to significantly reduce the amount of hydrogen that could be generated in the unlikely event of a severe accident. As a result, the silicon carbide is expected to offer a significant risk reduction and safety improvement for BWR fuel.

“Teaming with General Atomics is just one more example of our commitment to operational excellence by leveraging industry experts to advance today’s fuel designs,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president, Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “Our industry benefits from research and innovations built on the vast and diverse expertise necessary to support competitive, low-carbon electricity production.”

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Framatome and explore new applications for our SiGATM silicon-carbide composite,” said Jeff Quintenz, General Atomics Energy Group senior vice president. “We look forward to bringing this important product to market, helping improve the performance and economics of reactors around the world.”

In 2019, Framatome delivered lead fuel assemblies with PROtect EATF technologies to two U.S. reactors and one European reactor. These assemblies included Framatome’s chromium-coated cladding and chromia-enhanced pellets solutions.

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