France’s Framatome has received US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval allowing it to apply its suite of Advanced Codes & Methods to operating conditions with uranium-235 enrichments above the industry standard of 5 weight percent (wt%). This is critical for Framatome’s goal of reload readiness by 2027 of nuclear fuel with higher uranium enrichments and burnups in the current light water reactor fleet.

This will support Framatome’s advanced fuel development efforts aimed at improving fuel utilisation for nuclear plant operators and systematic improvements for safety and plant economics. “Our codes and methods provide added flexibility and allow nuclear plant operators to extend operating cycles and energy output,” said Lionel Gaiffe, Senior Executive Vice President for Framatome’s Fuel Business Unit.

Framatome says its advanced codes and methods provide significant operational margin gains. These give nuclear plant operators the flexibility to extend their reactor performance when coupled with the company’s nuclear fuel technology and its higher enrichment and burnup characteristics.

This regulatory approval also demonstrates that Framatome can effectively model reactor behaviour in the evaluation of neutronic, thermal hydraulic, small- and large-break loss-of-coolant-accident (LOCA), non-LOCA safety analysis, as well as for thermal mechanical performance with fuel enriched above current limits.

Earlier, NRC also approved a licence amendment allowing Framatome’s shipping containers to transport fresh nuclear fuel assemblies in the US with U-235 enrichments up to 8 wt%. The NRC also approved the methodology used to demonstrate that Framatome’s fuel fabrication facility will retain current safety margins when higher enriched material is received and processed into fuel. Based on this approval, major equipment orders have been placed to support the system upgrades needed to process higher enrichments, Framatome said.

The advanced fuel technology is being developed at Framatome facilities worldwide and will be built at the Richland, Washington, nuclear fuel manufacturing facility, which received the first 40-year fuel fabrication operating license approval, which extended its licence to 2049.

Image courtesy of Framatome