Technical Area 7 covers the research on nuclear fuel elements for existing, advanced and innovative core designs including assembly and control rod considerations. As defined in TA-1, it includes the development of new fuel elements, manufacturing, fuel elements use in reactors, assembly instrumentation and pre-disposal management of spent fuel.
In spite of the large knowledge base on existing nuclear fuel types, mainly UO2 and (U,Pu)O2 pellets with a zirconium alloy cladding, there are still data gaps, which necessitate dedicated material property measurement and modelling. In addition, there are many challenges for a number of innovative nuclear fuel element types under development, in particular with enhanced accident tolerance.
The focus is first on the safety criteria for the fuel behaviour in the core under normal, transient and accident conditions, as well as for the fuel cycle. Of particular importance is that the roadmap takes account of lessons from the Fukushima accident to propose research, development and innovation to improve the safety and resilience of the existing and new build LWR reactor fleet. A second focus is to improve the economics and sustainability of nuclear power, through optimization of the use of available fissile and fertile nuclear material resources, reduced fuel costs, increased burn-ups and development of small modular reactors. Finally, in relationship with a more varied energy mix, fuel flexibility also have to be improved.