The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Friday awarded General Atomics funding to continue the company’s development of new types of fuel for advanced nuclear reactors.
The awards were part of an announcement by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry providing $60 million for U.S. industry to support advanced nuclear technology development.
“The Department of Energy took an important step today toward supporting the continued leadership of the U.S. nuclear energy industry in development of advanced reactors,” said Dr. Christina Back, vice president of Nuclear Technologies and Materials at General Atomics. “We are pleased to be doing our part to ensure that the next generation of nuclear reactors – which will provide safe, clean and reliable energy to the world – will be developed by U.S. companies.”
The two projects will advance development and licensing of a new reactor fuel that features silicon carbide (SiC) composite fuel cladding containing uranium carbide (UC) fuel pellets. General Atomics originally developed SiC cladding for the innovative Energy Multiplier Module (EM2) advanced reactor design, though the technology has broad applications for a variety of current and advanced reactor concepts. EM2 is a small modular helium-cooled fast reactor that offers dramatic improvements in cost, safety, and non-proliferation while reducing waste production up to 80 percent and enabling the use of multiple fuel types, including UC and spent reactor fuel.
GA is also working with Westinghouse Electric Company to develop SiC cladding as part of DOE’s Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) program, which will improve the economics and safety margins of existing reactors by enabling them to withstand accident scenarios similar to those seen during the Fukushima disaster. SiC ATF may also make it economically attractive to extend the life of existing reactors.
The first project, with total funding of $2,763,744 and in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, will combine advanced computer modeling and simulation with new microcapsule irradiation to establish techniques that substantially reduce the time and expense required to qualify new fuels. The second project, funded at a total of $475,819, would support the pre-application license review of SiC-UC fuel by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, thereby developing an efficient roadmap for formal regulatory qualification. GA is providing the cost share for the awards.