Framatome reports industry-first underwater fuel weld

4 April 2022

Encapsulation equipment immersed into the fuel pool at Belgian’s Doel nuclear power plant (Credit: Framatome)Framatome announced that it had recently implemented an industry-first encapsulation technique that prepares damaged fuel rods for dry storage while shielded underwater.

In February, the method was used to safely weld and seal damaged fuel rods underwater at Belgian’s Doel 1 and 2 nuclar power plants.

Framatome said this milestone endorses the full functionality of the technique as the first-of-its-kind in the nuclear industry and demonstrates enhanced safety standards for its customers.

“As part of Framatome’s sustainable commitment to provide customers efficient operations that centre on safety, operators can now remotely perform fuel rod encapsulation completely underwater, resulting in optimal protective conditions,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of the Fuel Business Unit at Framatome.

“At Framatome, we continue to prioritise and deliver innovations that have positive impact for our customers’ safe and reliable, low-carbon electricity generation.”

The process to encapsulate fuel rods occurs in the used fuel pool. This includes remotely dewatering and hot gas drying the capsule, welding the end plugs and ultrasonically testing weld seams.

The encapsulation surrounds defective fuel rods with a pressure-tight steel capsule in a dry state, thus preventing possible leakage of fuel or radioactive substances into the storage facility. This tight enclosure is an important criterion for the capability of dry interim storage in compliance with regulatory restrictions.

Encapsulation equipment immersed into the fuel pool at Belgian’s Doel nuclear power plant (Credit: Framatome)

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