Overview of the multifaceted activities towards development and deployment of nuclear-grade FeCrAl alloys


A large effort is underway under the leadership of US DOE Fuel Cycle R&D program to develop advanced FeCrAl alloys as accident tolerant fuel (ATF) cladding to replace Zr-based alloys in light water reactors. The primary motivation is the excellent oxidation resistance of these alloys in high-temperature steam environments right up to their melting point (roughly three orders of magnitude slower oxidation kinetics than zirconium). A multifaceted effort is ongoing to rapidly advance FeCrAl alloys as a mature ATF concept. The activities span the broad spectrum of alloy development, environmental testing (high-temperature high-pressure water and elevated temperature steam), detailed mechanical characterization, material property database development, neutron irradiation, thin tube production, and multiple integral fuel test campaigns. Instead of off-the-shelf commercial alloys that might not prove optimal for the LWR fuel cladding application, a large amount of effort has been placed on the alloy development to identify the most optimum composition and microstructure for this application. The development program is targeting a cladding that offers performance comparable to or better than modern Zr-based alloys under normal operating and off-normal conditions. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the systematic effort to advance nuclear-grade FeCrAl alloys as an ATF cladding in commercial LWRs.

In: Top Fuel 2016: LWR Fuels with Enhanced Safety and Performance, pp. 691–698