The NEA joint project QUENCH-ATF was established in October 2021 to investigate the chemical, mechanical and thermal-hydraulics behaviour of selected accident-tolerant fuel (ATF) cladding materials under both, design basis and beyond design basis accident scenarios. In this context, a series of three bundle experiments will be conducted at the QUENCH facility of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany to assess potential enhanced safety features of these new materials.
Gathering 19 organisations from 9 member countries, the QUENCH-ATF project will last four years, during which the three full bundle tests will be accompanied with complete post-test examination programmes and associated blind and open analytical benchmark exercises involving all interested partners. QUENCH-ATF will provide unprecedented data on bundle behaviour of these advanced materials, which have mostly been scrutinised from a separate-effect perspective so far. The data obtained will support safety demonstration and licensing for ATFs as well as the validation of code systems simulating accident scenarios.
Since its kick-off, the project has focused on the preparation of the first test which was successfully completed by the KIT team on 17 July 2022. The first test was performed with a 24 rods bundle of Chromium-coated Zircaloy cladding rods, under a typical loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA) scenario. While the extraction and analysis of the experimental results is ongoing, the analytical benchmark exercise will soon begin. The preparation of the second test scheduled for the first half of 2023 is already under way.