Famatron PROtect fuel to be tested in French reactor

Framatome has signed a cooperation agreement with EDF to test its PROtect Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) technology. Under the agreement, four lead fuel assemblies will be installed in one of EDF’s French reactors by the end of this year.

Accident-tolerant fuel is a term used to describe new technology that improves the tolerance of light water reactor fuel under severe accident conditions and provides improvements in reactor performance and economics. Such fuels may include the use of new materials and designs for cladding and fuel pellets.

Supported by the French Relance recovery programme and the US Department of Energy (DOE), Framatome’s EATF technology is based on an advanced chromium coating applied to a zirconium alloy cladding, and chromium-enhanced fuel pellets.

PROtect EATF is more tolerant of loss of active cooling of the reactor core because its reduced oxidation behaviour increases the ‘response time’, the company says. The fuel also offers better performance during normal operation, giving operators greater flexibility and efficiency.

Framatome, EDF and the French Alternative Energy and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) have been working together on the chrome-coated cladding concept for nearly a decade.Framatome’s development work led to the insertion of the first lead fuel rods in reactors in Switzerland and the US in 2019, followed by delivery and insertion at US nuclear power plants in the spring of 2021 at the time of decommissioning, consisting of 100% chrome-reinforced pellets and chromium-coated rods as the first complete fuel assembly, and recently completed a second 18-month fuel cycle at an operating plant in the US. Overall, Framatome’s PROtect EATF solution has been implemented at four different nuclear power plants in the USA and one in Europe.

The lead fuel assemblies will be produced at Framatome’s facility in France. The results obtained during the EDF irradiation campaign will help confirm the performance of the technology in French reactors and support the final approval of the French nuclear safety regulator Autorité de S?reté Nucléaire, it said.

Three suppliers – Framatome, GE Hitachi & GNF, and Westinghouse – are working with the DOE to develop new fuels under its accident-tolerant fuel program.

Last July, Westinghouse and EDF agreed to work together to explore the capabilities of Westinghouse’s EnCore ATF technology. Westinghouse said it will study the fuel’s use in EDF reactors for potential deployment across EDF’s nuclear power reactors after 2030. The company said it will deliver EnCore assemblies with lead test rods to EDF from its fuel fabrication facility in Västerås, Sweden, by 2023.

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