DOE Advanced Ceramics R&D
SMI operates the U.S. Advanced Ceramics Association (USACA), a 501(c)(6) business league established in 1983 based on the strategic importance of creating and sustaining a domestic advanced ceramics industry. The Association represents the industrial base for advanced ceramics, including OEM’s, supply chain members comprised of small, medium and large businesses, and universities performing fundamental research. USACA members are developing a new class of ceramic materials which will provide a unique combination of high-temperature stability and corrosion resistance necessary for a wide range of applications where improvements in energy efficiency, environmental protection, lifetime operating costs and performance are desired.
An example of this new technology is a silicon carbide (SiC) ceramic material which has the potential to extend the lifetime of nuclear fuels used in current nuclear power plants, dramatically reducing the amount of used nuclear fuel that must be managed for eventual disposal or recycle, and providing significant tolerance to potential severe accidents like core meltdown events. SiC ceramic fuel cladding is stable to temperatures well above that of the zirconium alloy currently used for fuel cladding, thereby avoiding many of the problems experienced during the severe accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in 2011. For these and other reasons, SiC ceramic fuel cladding is being referred to as Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) cladding and would represent a significant benefit to the nuclear power industry and society in general.
SMI has successfully led USACA’s Congressional lobbying and Federal marketing efforts to increase DOE’s investments in an industry-led, cost-shared research, development and demonstration program funded at $150 million over 10 years to transition accident tolerant SiC ceramic cladding technology into commercial application by the global nuclear reactor fleet.