From an interview with Gary Mignogna, President and Chief Executive Officer of AREVA Inc.:

What new fuel developments do you foresee in the next five years?

AREVA NP is working in many areas of fuel development. Our priority is to improve the economics of today’s fuel. We introduced two new fuel types: GAIA for 17×17 fuel and ATRIUM 11 for boiling water reactors. ATRIUM 11 has an 11×11 array which distributes power better than the 10×10 array of fuel rods.

Both of these fuel types improve the economy of the fuel and allow us to more economically take cores to a 24-month fuel cycle. There’s no reason why more of the units in the country can’t get to 24-month cycles. It’s just a matter of the economics of the fuel because you have to replace more fuel assemblies when you go to a longer core life. GAIA and ATRIUM 11 improve the economics of doing that. They can also improve the economics if a plant maintains an 18-month fuel cycle.

We are also developing new fuel designs that will be more accident tolerant than existing designs. We have three different programs going on right now. One combines chromium-doped fuel pellets with a chromium coated cladding, which provides operators hours of additional coping or response time. Beyond that, we’re looking at silicon carbide. We actually have some samples of this in an operating nuclear power plant in Europe. The goal of this design is to achieve even more hours of time for operators to take action.

We’re optimistic about the success of these advanced accident-tolerant fuel designs. The fuel designs we have now are safe and meet all regulatory requirements, but it’s exciting to think where we could be in five years from now with these products.

Read the full interview at Nuclear Plant Journal.