The Next Evolution of Nuclear Fuel – AREVA NP’s EATF Program

AREVA NP has remained steadfast in its commitment to deliver high-quality fuel and fuel-related products to our customers and utilities throughout the world. That mission started more than 50 years ago and continues today.

AREVA NP recently introduced the next generation of fuel designs to the U.S. market – GAIA for pressurized water reactors and ATRIUM™11 for boiling water reactors. These two new innovative designs increase efficiency and reliability for nuclear plant operators, demonstrating AREVA NP’s effort to help deliver the nuclear promise.

“With an eye toward the future, we continue to use our breadth of experience to find solutions that advance the industry,” said Gary Mignogna, President and CEO, AREVA Inc. “Our latest fuel designs demonstrate our commitment to our customers and the nuclear industry.”

Even as these new products come to market, AREVA NP is already one step ahead, working on the next set of designs and features that will take efficiency and reliability to the next level.

How is AREVA NP doing this?

AREVA NP and its partners are collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on its Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) program – a program committed to developing concepts that provide reactor operators more time to respond during accident scenarios. As part of its EATF efforts, AREVA NP is developing both near- and long-term solutions for its customers and utilities.

In the near term, AREVA NP is pursuing two concepts – adding chromia to fuel pellets and to fuel rod cladding. Chromia-doped pellets have a higher density and reduce fission gas release in the event of an accident where there is a loss of coolant. Applying a chromium coating to existing zirconium alloy fuel rod cladding will improve interaction performance.

eATFAREVA NP’s Richland, Wash., nuclear fuel manufacturing facility is currently modifying its equipment in preparation for chromia-doped fuel pellet production in the spring of 2017. The pellets will be inserted into rodlets (approximately 6 inches in length) and tested. The data from these tests are necessary to meet licensing requirements prior to insertion in a commercial nuclear reactor.

With an aggressive timeline, AREVA NP is pushing to have lead fuel assemblies in commercial reactors by 2019 and be prepared for reload batches by the mid-2020s. The timeliness of these solutions benefits utility customers, especially those with a shorter plant life.

In tandem with near-term efforts, AREVA NP is also exploring the development and implementation of silicon carbide fuel cladding – a solution that provides operational benefits and increased degradation resistance at increased temperatures.

“To make this happen, we are relying on our team of fuel experts throughout the world and more than 50 years of experience in the nuclear industry,” said Robert Freeman, AREVA NP Vice President, Commercial and Customer Center – North America. “Our program is built on the collective knowledge and expertise from leaders across the nuclear sector, including utilities, national labs, universities and industry organizations.”