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PWR core design with Metal Matrix Micro-encapsulated (M3) fuel


Metal Matrix Micro-encapsulated (M3) fuel consists of TRISO coated fuel particles directly dispersed in a matrix of zirconium metal to form a solid rod. In this integral fuel concept the cladding tube and the failure mechanisms associated with it have been eliminated; therefore, M3 fuel, compared to existing fuel designs, is expected to provide greatly improved operational performance. The main challenge to the deployment of M3 fuels is the low heavy metal load. This needs to be compensated with high density fuel (uranium nitride), larger rods and mainly higher enrichment. This study found that M3 fuel requires about 15.5% enriched UN TRISO particles to match the cycle length of standard fuel when loaded in a PWR. In order to achieve comparable reactivity feedbacks, in particular moderator temperature, the pitch to rod diameter ratio should be reduced to 1.20 compared to the typical 1.326. As M3 fuel provides a better path for heat transfer from the fuel, such smaller pitch is expected to be feasible, but further evaluations especially to examine thermal-hydraulic aspects are required. Analyses of possible load patterns for burnable poisons showed that M3 fuel maintains similar cycle length to that of standard fuel and pin power peaks are also comparable. Nevertheless, further optimization will be required to limit assembly power peaks.

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