The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a $33.7 million project to continue development of advanced fuel rod technologies to GE's Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York. The new fuel, using the IronClad and Armor advanced fuel solutions, will be developed in partnership with DOE’s Los Alamos, Oak Researchers inspect a fuel rod at the GE Global Research Center. Source: GE Global ResearchResearchers inspect a fuel rod at the GE Global Research Center. Source: GE Global ResearchRidge and Idaho National Laboratories.

The two-and-a-half-year project, launched to improve the safety and performance of new fuel rods, will advance the use of GE’s alternative IronClad material. Enhanced fuel reliability, operational flexibility and lower costs are expected from use of the material, which features higher durability tolerances than the state-of-the-art zircaloy metal currently used for fuel rods.

Accident-tolerant properties enable the metal material to withstand extreme conditions for longer durations. Armor-coated zirconium cladding provides enhanced protection of fuel rods against debris fretting and greater resistance to oxidation than standard zirconium cladding.

The researchers are also evaluating the use of ceramic matrix composites, high-temperature materials currently applied to improve efficiency and performance of commercial jet engines, in the development of channel boxes that surround the fuel rods. The project also will deploy additional test fuel rods of Global Nuclear Fuel’s armor-coated cladding solution in the same reactor as the IronClad test segments. GNF is a GE-led joint venture.

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