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Westinghouse awarded $93.6M for accident-tolerant nuclear fuel development; silicon carbide cladding

Westinghouse Electric Company has been awarded $93.6 million in funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) in support of its accident-tolerant fuel program, EnCore Fuel.

EnCore Fuel is being developed to deliver design-basis-altering safety margins, withstanding far more severe conditions than today’s fuel. With an extremely high melting point (2800 °C or higher) and minimal reaction with water, Westinghouse’s silicon-carbide fuel cladding offers safety benefits in severe accident conditions, particularly compared to the significant hydrogen-and-heat producing reactions that occur above 1200° C for zirconium fuel cladding.

Westinghouse is also developing an alternative cladding material—a chromium-coated zirconium alloy that also inhibits the zirconium-steam reaction.

The EnCore Fuel program includes the development of both short- and long-term products that provide advanced safety features, enhanced fuel cycles and economic advantages.

  • The first phase of the program will deliver the chromium-coated zirconium cladding for enhanced oxidation and corrosion resistance, and higher density ADOPT pellets for improved fuel economics.

  • The second phase will introduce the silicon carbide composite cladding and high-density uranium silicide pellets to offer significantly higher safety and economic benefits.

The funding will be used by Westinghouse, in partnership with General Atomics, as well as national laboratory and university partners to accelerate the introduction of lead test rods of silicon carbide cladding into a US commercial reactor by 2022.

The funding will also support the implementation of the first load fuel assemblies containing lead test rods of Encore Fuel, currently scheduled to be inserted in Exelon Generation’s Byron Unit 2 in spring of 2019.

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