Westinghouse announced that it will load fuel assemblies containing lead test rods of its accident tolerant fuel solution, EnCoreTM Fuel, in Exelon Generation’s Byron Unit 2 in spring of 2019. The fuel assemblies will contain chromium-coated zirconium fuel rods loaded with uranium silicide pellets, which set EnCore Fuel apart from other accident-tolerant fuel solutions because of the pellets’ higher density and higher thermal conductivity.
“Accident tolerant fuel is a game-changer for the nuclear industry,” said Ken Peterson, vice president of Nuclear Fuels for Exelon Generation. “It has the potential to greatly enhance safety while reducing costs and enhancing fuel efficiency.”
Delivered in two phases, the initial EnCore Fuel product phase is comprised of the chromium-coated cladding containing uranium silicide pellets. The reduced oxidation and hydrogen pickup of the coated cladding during normal operation (250° – 350°C) is intended to prolong cladding life, provide enhanced resistance to wear and increase margins.
The second phase of EnCore Fuel features uranium silicide pellets and silicon carbide (SiC) composite cladding, and is under development by Westinghouse with General Atomics. SiC composite cladding is intended to offer significant safety benefits in beyond-design-basis accident scenarios, enabled by its extremely high melting point (2800ºC or higher). It reacts 10,000 times slower with water and steam than zirconium, resulting in minimal generation of heat and hydrogen in beyond-design-basis accident scenarios.
“As the largest global supplier of nuclear fuel, we have utilized our design knowledge and experience in manufacturing every type of commercial nuclear fuel, to develop our EnCore Fuel product,” said Michele DeWitt, Westinghouse senior vice president, Nuclear Fuel. “Westinghouse is also working to establish a credible licensing basis that will allow utilities to realize the full benefits of EnCore Fuel.”
Westinghouse and its network of partners are developing EnCore Fuel as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Accident Tolerant Fuel Program. Westinghouse has received awards totaling more than $30 million for the development of EnCore Fuel.