June 13, 2019

Fuel for tomorrow: Framatome’s Alain Frichet speaks to Nuclear Engineering International about research priorities

In a quest to improve safety and economics, nuclear fuel companies are investing in new materials and manufacturing techniques. Framatome’s Alain Frichet speaks to NEI about research priorities.

THE TWO MAIN DRIVERS OF materials development in the nuclear fuel domain are safety and fuel cycle cost, says Alain Frichet, vice president of Fuel Products and Technologies at Framatome. Frichet, who joined Framatome in 1995, is leading the company’s research and development of all pressurised water reactor (PWR) and boiling water reactor (BWR) fuel technologies. This includes projects at Framatome’s sites in France, Germany and the USA, as well as worldwide technical partnerships.

In the aftermath of the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the nuclear industry undertook a global effort to further increase fuel margins in the case of a severe accident. It led to programmes to develop enhanced accident tolerant fuel (EATF). Framatome, as part of its PROTect programme, is developing and testing two EATF concepts: a near-term solution that involves chromia-enhanced fuel pellets and fuel rods with a chromium coating; and a longer-term solution with a silicon carbide-based cladding.

Frichet also sees opportunities to leverage new technologies for fuel manufacture and qualification. Big data is a “very interesting” way of predicting fuel behaviour, he says. As a fuel designer, Framatome has lots of operating data, which could be used to optimise the design of future fuel rods. Additive manufacturing (AM) also offers “many potential benefits” for nuclear fuel components, according to Frichet.