A new 3D fuel behavior solver is currently under collaborative development at the Laboratory for Reactor Physics and Systems Behaviour of the cole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne and at the Paul Scherrer Institut. The long term objective is to enable a more accurate simulation of inherently 3D safety-relevant phenomena which affect the performance of the nuclear fuel. The current implementation is a coupled three-dimensional heat conduction and linear elastic small strain solver, which models the effects of burnup- and temperature dependent material properties, swelling, relocation and gap conductance. The near future developments will include the introduction of a smeared pellet cracking model and of material inleasticities, such as creep and plasticity. After an overview of the theoretical background, equations and models behind the solver, this work focuses on the recent preliminary verification and validation efforts. The radial temperature and stress profiles predicted by the solver for the case of an infinitely long rod are compared against their analytical solution, allowing the verification of the thermo-mechanics equations and of the gap heat transfer model. Then, an axisymmetric model is created for 4 rods belonging to the Halden assembly IFA-432. These models are used to predict the fuel centerline temperature during power ramps recorded at the beginning of life, when the fuel rod performance is still not affected by more complex high burnup effects. Finally, the predictions are compared with the experimental measurements coming from the IFPE database. This first preliminary results allow a careful validation of the temperature-dependent material properties and of the gap conductance models.