ATLANTA (AP) -- Researchers are trying to make the fuel in nuclear power plants safer during extreme accidents.
The U.S. government increased funding for the research effort after the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan showed the problems with existing fuel.
Nuclear fuel comes in pellets about the size of a fingertip. Those pellets are stacked into rods up to 15 feet high. Each rod is wrapped in a sheath of metal alloy called cladding. During an extreme accident, the alloy can release explosive hydrogen gas and create excess heat.
Tougher cladding might give nuclear plants more time before a bad situation turns into a meltdown.
Researchers are exploring ways to protectively coat the cladding, make it self-healing or even replace it with ceramics.