General Atomics is collaborating with Westinghouse on a new accident-tolerant nuclear reactor fuel, known as EnCore, which is intended to make current nuclear reactors safer while also providing economic benefits to nuclear utilities and their consumers.
GA is providing the ceramic matrix composite cladding that replaces the currently used metal cladding. It has an engineered construction that uses silicon carbide material reinforced with flexible SiC fibre in much the same way that steel rebar reinforces concrete. This creates an extremely hard and durable material that is daid to be able to withstand the harshest reactor conditions, creating the "accident tolerant" nature of the new fuel rods.
Silicon carbide cladding allows the fuel rods to withstand temperatures of over 3000°F, more than twice the temperature that can be sustained by metal cladding used in current reactor cores. In addition, the new cladding is much more chemically stable, virtually eliminating the risk of generating hydrogen during loss-of-cooling accidents.
"General Atomics has successfully demonstrated that our silicon carbide-based cladding meets key requirements, and as a company we are committed to bringing this advanced material to market to help the nuclear industry drive down costs and deliver significant safety benefits to current reactors" commented Dr Christina Back, vp of nuclear technologies and materials for General Atomics.