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U.S. Department of Energy Accident Resistant SiC Clad Nuclear Fuel Development

A significant effort is being placed on silicon carbide ceramic matrix composite (SiC CMC) nuclear fuel cladding by Light Water Reactor Sustainability (LWRS) Advanced Light Water Reactor Nuclear Fuels Pathway. The intent of this work is to invest in a high-risk, high-reward technology that can be introduced in a relatively short time. The LWRS goal is to demonstrate successful advanced fuels technology that suitable for commercial development to support nuclear relicensing. Ceramic matrix composites are an established non-nuclear technology that utilizes ceramic fibers embedded in a ceramic matrix. A thin interfacial layer between the fibers and the matrix allows for ductile behavior. The SiC CMC has relatively high strength at high reactor accident temperatures when compared to metallic cladding. SiC also has a very low chemical reactivity and doesn’t react exothermically with the reactor cooling water. The radiation behavior of SiC has also been studied extensively as structural fusion system components. The SiC CMC technology is in the early stages of development and will need to mature before confidence in the developed designs can created. The advanced SiC CMC materials do offer the potential for greatly improved safety because of their high temperature strength, chemical stability and reduced hydrogen generation.

 

Enlarged Halden Programme Group Meeting 2011