Following the tragic events at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in 2011, priority was given to increasing the accident tolerance of fuel systems for the current fleet of nuclear reactors. These enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) concepts include a wide variety of fuel and cladding materials, both as variants of the current Zircaloy-UO2 system and also as novel fuel and cladding concepts. In addition to testing at steady-state, prototypic, conditions within a nuclear reactor, performance of these ATF concepts in off-normal and transient conditions must be evaluated. The Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) facility at Idaho National Laboratory’s (INLs) Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) was restarted in the Fall of 2017 and is well-suited to serve this purpose. September of 2018 marked the first fueled specimen to be tested in TREAT since its restart; testing of fuel specimens has been ongoing since then. Initial fuel tests focused on the traditional Zircaloy-UO2 fuel system in order to gain a more thorough understanding of operating characteristics of both the test vehicle system and also the interactions between the reactor and the experiment itself. These tests also served to commission new test vehicles using the well-characterized Zircaloy-UO2 system.
The Separate Effects Test Holder, SETH Capsule, is a modular capsule designed such that it can support a wide variety of specimen geometries ranging from prototypic pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel samples, heat sink based experiments, and more. The capsule itself is an additively manufactured titanium capsule, within which the experimental specimen is loaded. The SETH Phase I series of tests included five individual SETH capsules, each with a single fuel rodlet and instrumentation to measure temperature during irradiation in TREAT. Each fuel rodlet is representative of a fuel rod in a PWR, with UO2 in Zircaloy-4 cladding.
In August of 2019, TREAT irradiated the first ATF candidate fuel, U3Si2. This marked the first transient test of an ATF concept and is part of a larger campaign that will irradiate a total of four capsules containing ATF concepts. This test campaign, SETH Phase II, built upon the previous SETH Phase I campaign with a nearly identical design except for the fuel rodlet itself. Two of the four SETH capsules contained U3Si2 fuel within Zircaloy-4 cladding, and the other two capsules contained U3Si2 fuel within SiC cladding.
This paper reviews the design, fabrication, and assembly efforts resulting in the four qualified SETH capsules for TREAT irradiation of these ATF concepts.