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Concluded CRP: Analysis of Options and Experimental Examination of Fuels for Water Cooled Reactors with Increased Accident Tolerance (T12030)

Success story
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Post-test metallography of uncoated (left) and Cr-coated (right) Zry-2 samples after high temperature oxidation, in 30 minutes at 1200°C, during the CRP Round Robin Test Programme.

Development and verification of computer codes to model nuclear fuel behaviour is possible only based on good experimental data that requires long-term and sometimes expensive studies. That is why international cooperation in this area is highly useful. The IAEA supports Member States in their efforts to enhance national capacities in developing computer codes used for the prediction of fuel behaviour.

A 4-year coordinated research project (CRP) on the Analysis of Options and Experimental Examination of Fuels for Water-Cooled Reactors with Increased Accident Tolerance, has recently concluded. The project allowed experts to develop and improve modelling of advanced fuel concepts, including the collection of experimental data that will be required to allow the introduction of such fuels into commercial reactors.

CRP Overall Objective

The goal of the project was to contribute to the development options for nuclear fuel with an improved tolerance of severe accident conditions. The CRP was a continuation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety and followed the recommendation of a Technical Meeting on Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) held in the United States in 2014.

Specific Research Objectives

  • Develop modelling of new fuel designs with advanced cladding or fuel; and
  • Acquire data through experiments on new fuel types and cladding materials to support their use for fuel with improved accident tolerance.

Impact

Research from this CRP successfully achieved its aims and resulted in the collection of new experimental data, obtained in the framework of cooperative Round Robin Tests (RRTs), and improvement of fuel performance codes, developed by the participating Member States (see Figure 1).

The CRP efficiently contributed to participating Member States’ efforts to analyse and better understand the behaviour of ATFs in both normal operation and accident conditions. This was done through producing and sharing experimental data and best practices in fuel modelling computer codes. As a result, a dynamic network of experts has been established to continue to address the technical issues associated with ATF materials and application of fuel performance codes, including severe accident codes to ATF.

Among many research papers and technical presentations prepared and published by the CRP participants, a set of joint publications with an overview of the Project’s main results were submitted to several International Conferences (e.g. TopFuel-2019) and meetings. All CRP results have been compiled in the recently issued IAEA-TECDOC-1921.

“This CRP is a great example of the global effort in improving nuclear fuel safety and robustness through technology advancement by the nuclear community as a whole,” noted Peng Xu, CRP Chairman and Principal Engineer at Westinghouse.

Participants expressed interest in continuing working together on innovation in fuel technology developments. These suggestions paved the way for the recently launched CRP T12032 on Testing and Simulation for Advanced Technology and Accident Tolerant Fuels (ATF-TS), which is open for proposals.

Relevance

Nuclear fuel for water reactors is traditionally manufactured based on a design of uranium dioxide pellets contained in a cladding of zirconium base alloy. After the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, it became important to investigate other fuel designs that would be more resistant to such severe accidents, whilst retaining the reliability and burnup potential of current fuel designs.

The CRP enhanced Member States' capabilities to understand, model, predict and improve the behaviour of nuclear fuel under accident conditions, in response to Member States' request expressed in Resolution GC(61)/RES/11 on Strengthening the Agency's activities related to nuclear science, technology and applications.

It also contributed to the objective of the IAEA Project 1.2.2.001: Nuclear power reactor fuel engineering and performance, “to support IAEA Member States to understand and address factors affecting the design, fabrication and in-pile behaviour of currently operated and innovative nuclear fuels and materials for power reactors”.

Participating Countries

The CRP involved 17 organizations from 13 Member States (Argentina, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Korea and the United States), with 4 observers regularly participating in the Research Coordination Meetings.

For further information related to the CRP, please see the CRP page.  

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