The Fukushima Daiichi event has demonstrated the need for improved nuclear energy safety, which might be ensured by the development of advanced technology fuels (ATFs). ATFs are expected to overcome the inherent technical shortcomings of the standard zircaloy/UO2 fuels, thus relieving the industry from the huge financial penalty associated with beyond-design-basis accidents and also protecting society and environment from the potential damage such events may cause. Innovative fuel cladding material concepts, such as the MAX phase coating/zircaloy clad substrate candidate system proposed here, which can successfully address the ATF challenge, are expected to improve energy safety worldwide, in response to the demands of the amended Nuclear Safety Directive 2014/87/EURATOM. MAX phases are a unique class of layered solids with hybrid metallic-ceramic behavior and properties that depend on stoichiometry, given by the general formula Mn+1AXn, where M is an early transition metal, A is an A-group element, and X is C or N, while n typically takes the values 1, 2 or 3. MAX phases are quite versatile materials, as their properties (e.g., deformability, thermal stability, oxidation resistance, etc.) can be tailored by forming solid solutions on the M, A and X sites. Solid solutions often have better properties than the 'parent' (ternary carbide/nitride) MAX phases. MAX phases are also characterized by a remarkable capacity for self-annihilation of neutron-induced defects at elevated temperatures, making them promising coating materials for ATF clads suitable for Gen-II/III LWRs. Select MAX phases have also been reported to form protective oxide scales in oxidizing environments; this oxide scales remain adherent on the bulk MAX phases even after thermal cycling. Moreover, MAX phases have been reported capable of crack self-healing in oxidizing environments and are also characterized by unusually high – for ceramics – damage tolerance, due to the operation of various energy-absorbing mechanisms upon crack propagation; these properties make the MAX phases promising coating materials for innovative ATF cladding materials suitable for Gen-II/III LWRs.