DOE Extends Global Nuclear Fuel Contract

GE said that its Global Research Center in Niskayuna, N.Y., has received a $33.7 million Department of Energy contract to continue development of advanced fuel rod technologies that have both improved performance and a “more robust” capacities during accident conditions.

GE Global ResearchThe project involves a partnership between the Global Research Center and the Department of Energy, which has already been working on IronClad, which is an alternative material solution for fuel rods that is more durable to extreme conditions.

The team has been working with the Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Development of IronClad material for fuel rods has already resulted in more durability than the current Zircaloy metal used to make fuel rods today, GE said. “It is anticipated the new fuel rods being designed by GE scientists will provide enhanced fuel reliability, increased safety, operational flexibility and reduced cost by leveraging accident tolerant properties, withstanding extreme conditions for longer periods of time,” the company said.

Global Nuclear Fuels, a GE-led joint venture, has been conducting field studies with participation from Exelon and Southern Nuclear. Part of the effort is to develop ceramic composites in channel boxes that surround the fuel rods to make a safer system in the event of active coolant loss, said GE Global Research technical operations leader in metals Evan Dolley.

“Today, nuclear plants already set the highest bar for safety, durability and reliability. Our project aims to raise the bar even higher by developing alternative fuel rods that are even more resilient,” Dolley said.

Dolley said the project team is bringing in experts from GE’s Aviation and Additive businesses. Ceramic matrix composites, which today are higher temperature materials used in commercial jet engines to improve efficiency and performance, are being applied to develop the channel boxes that surround the fuel rods. The project will also deploy additional test fuel rods of GNF’s ARMOR coated cladding solution in the same reactor as the IronClad test segments.

Field tests on the new material are taking place at Southern Nuclear's Hatch Nuclear Power Plant, where two different IronClad composites are being tested. Additional testing is to be done at Exelon Generations Clinton Nuclear Power Plant in 2019, Nuclear Engineering International said.

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