China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has finished research on an accident tolerant fuel (ATF), a concept the company created, and is now working on deploying the fuel in demonstration projects, CGN announced at a recent conference attended by a group of domestic experts in the field.
It marks one of the most noteworthy technological breakthroughs in China’s nuclear fuel industry in the past 50 years.
Safety and economic efficiency determine the survival and development of the nuclear power industry, and nuclear fuel is the key safety factor. The new-generation fuel system of ATF was developed to improve the fuel element’s resistance to serious accidents.
ATF can fundamentally enhance nuclear reactor safety, effectively alleviate consequences of any accident and protect the public and the environment from radioactive contamination.
According to Hao Zhijian, deputy general manager of CGN Research Institute Co, unlike the traditional design concept of “defense in-depth”, the integration of ATF and passive safety technologies can simplify the design of a nuclear power plant (NPP)’s safety systems. It will significantly enhance the safety and economic efficiency of the NPPs in operation or under construction, and will also enable nuclear power to be applied more broadly.
Hao Zhijian (2nd L) at the conference, which focused on a major project of accident tolerant fuel (ATF)’s research and development.
CGN was assigned to lead the AFT R&D project in 2015. It assembled a group of research institutes and universities, such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the China Academy of Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University and Xi'an Jiaotong University, to form a national team committed to ATF technological R&D and creation of a nuclear fuel industrial alliance.
Hao noted that it took CGN three years to complete the conceptual design of ATF, develop performance analysis software for it with independent intellectual property right, draw up a series of evaluation criteria for typical ATF applications and make a preliminary evaluation of the safety benefits of ATF under accident conditions. The results were both a breakthrough in composition design and preparation technology of advanced cladding and nuclear fuel pellets.
At present, CGN’s research on ATF is focused on development of fuel models and their applications in projects. Efforts will also be made to bring about a national evaluation platform, a standardization center for ATF, a State-level team specializing in nuclear fuel and materials, achievements in trademarks and intellectual property rights and a platform to accelerate technological applications.
Hao said the research on ATF will further speed up R&D on fuel assemblies, and testing process of research reactors and commercial reactors.
It will also keep China’s ATF technology and innovative drive at the forefront of the world, and enable the country to become the leader in nuclear power safety, Hao added.
Experts at the meeting.
Group photo of all the experts at the meeting.