A novel approach on designing ultrahigh burnup metallic TWR fuels: Upsetting the current technological limits

Linna Feng, Yuwen Xu, Jie Qiu, Xiang Liu, Chunyang Wen, Zhengyu Qian, Wenbo Liu, Wei Yan, Yanfen Li, Zhaohao Wang, Shilun Zheng, Shaoqiang Guo, Tan Shi, Chenyang Lu, Junli Gou, Liangxing Li, Jianqiang Shan, James F. Stubbins, Long Gu, Di Yun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: The grand challenge of “net-zero carbon” emission calls for technological breakthroughs in energy production. The traveling wave reactor (TWR) is designed to provide economical and safe nuclear power and solve imminent problems, including limited uranium resources and radiotoxicity burdens from back-end fuel reprocessing/disposal. However, qualification of fuels and materials for TWR remains challenging and it sets an “end of the road” mark on the route of R&D of this technology. In this article, a novel approach is proposed to maneuver reactor operations and utilize high-temperature transients to mitigate the challenges raised by envisioned TWR service environment. Annular U-50Zr fuel and oxidation dispersion strengthened (ODS) steels are proposed to be used instead of the current U-10Zr and HT-9 ferritic/martensitic steels. In addition, irradiation-accelerated transport of Mn and Cr to the cladding surface to form a protective oxide layer as a self-repairing mechanism was discovered and is believed capable of mitigating long-term corrosion. This work represents an attempt to disruptively overcome current technological limits in the TWR fuels. Impact statement: After the Fukushima accident in 2011, the entire nuclear industry calls for a major technological breakthrough that addresses the following three fundamental issues: (1) Reducing spent nuclear fuel reprocessing demands, (2) reducing the probability of a severe accident, and (3) reducing the energy production cost per kilowatt-hour. An inherently safe and ultralong life fast neutron reactor fuel form can be such one stone that kills the three birds. In light of the recent development findings on U-50Zr fuels, we hereby propose a disruptive, conceptual metallic fuel design that can serve the following purposes at the same time: (1) Reaching ultrahigh burnup of above 40% FIMA, (2) possessing strong inherent safety features, and (3) extending current limits on fast neutron irradiation dose to be far beyond 200 dpa. We believe that this technology will be able to bring about revolutionary changes to the nuclear industry by significantly lowering the operational costs as well as improving the reactor system safety to a large extent. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1092-1102
Number of pages11
JournalMRS Bulletin
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • High burnup
  • Irradiation effects
  • Nuclear fuels
  • Traveling wave reactor
  • Zero carbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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