Oak Ridge Lab Receives EnCore Fuel Rods

Nuclear services provider Westinghouse said that the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee had received several of its irradiated EnCore nuclear fuel rods for a year of testing that is geared towards supporting the company's efforts to have the "accident-tolerant" fuel become certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Westinghouse EnCore fuel programThe fuel rods were irradiated in a commercial reactor, placed in the reactor in the spring of 2019, and removed in the fall of 2020. They were shipped to Oak Ridge with the help of nuclear fuel specialists NAC International, according to Nuclear Engineering International.

"After it was removed from the reactor, visual inspections of the fuel showed no signs of degradation," Westinghouse said. "ORNL will now examine the irradiated rods over the next year to support licensing efforts."

The fuel rods were outfitted with Westinghouse's near-term EnCore Fuel solutions, a chromium-coated zirconium alloy cladding, along with ADOPT high-density uranium fuel pellets. The aim is to increase tolerance of severe accident conditions and to improve fuel cycle economics through extended fuel cycles. ADOPT fuel and chromium cladding also support higher burnup and 24-month cycle operation for high-power density plants. Longer-term solutions in the form of uranium nitride pellets and advanced silicon carbide-based cladding are also in development, the company said.

"The examination of these high-performance features is the latest milestone on our strategic timeline to enable utilities to quickly gain the safety and cost benefits that EnCore fuel will provide," said Jeff Bradfute, Westinghouse vice president of Americas Fuel Delivery.

"Westinghouse continues to make incredible strides in the development of its Accident Tolerant Fuels,” said Frank Goldner, a nuclear engineer within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy. “These fuels will have a tangible impact on the industry once deployed in the near-term and could help make our U.S. fleet more economical to operate.”

The EnCore Fuel program is being developed in partnership with ORNL, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the DOE and General Atomics. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2020 said they had accepted the Topical Report WCAP-18482-P/WCAP-18482-NP, Revision 0, “Westinghouse Advanced Doped Pellet Technology (ADOPTTM) Fuel” for regulatory review.

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