Framatome’s accident tolerant fuel completes test cycle in US reactor

27 July 2023

France’s Framatome says its Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) assembly has completed its first cycle of operation at unit 2 of the US Calvert Cliffs NPP in Maryland, marking significant progress and an important step toward market readiness of accident tolerant fuel (ATF) technology. Some 24 months of operation, testing and inspections “confirm the robust fuel characteristics safely withstood in-reactor conditions and performed as designed”, Framatome noted.

Lionel Gaiffe, Senior Executive Vice President, Fuel Business Unit at Framatome said: “Collectively, we are one step closer in the qualification of our PROtect EATF technology for the nuclear industry. With the adoption and implementation of our enhanced technologies, our industry partners continue to demonstrate their commitment to enhance the safety and performance of their reliable, low-carbon, energy operations.”

The lead fuel assembly (LFA) was developed with funding from US Department of Energy (DOE) and the French Recovery Plan under Framatome’s PROtect programme. It contains 176 chromium-coated rods and chromia-enhanced pellets and was initially inserted during the NPP’s 2021 spring refuelling outage.

The PROtect EATF LFA was removed and inspected during the 2023 spring refuelling outage with the results confirming the integrity of the technology after two years in operation. It is now operating in its second two-year cycle of operation.

Framatome said the EATF fuel assembly “builds on previous work that included completing 18- and 12-month fuel cycle tests on lead fuel rods in the US and Switzerland respectively. The PROtect EATF chromium-coated cladding and chromia-enhanced pellets are more tolerant to changes in reactor core temperatures, increasing coping time while reducing corrosion and the production of hydrogen under high-temperature conditions.

The LFA was fabricated at Framatome’s manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington, as part of a 2019 contract with Exelon that marked the fourth different reactor type to implement PROtect EATF technologies.

Earlier in July, Framatome signed a collaboration agreement with EDF to begin reactor tests of its (EATF technology at a French NPP. Framatome will manufacture and deliver four lead fuel assemblies (LFAs) that will be inserted in one of the EDF’s reactors later this year. To date Framatome’s PROtect EATF solutions have been implemented in four different NPPs in the US and one in Europe.

Currently, Framatome, GE Hitachi with GNF, and Westinghouse - are working with DOE to develop new fuels under its Accident Tolerant Fuel programme. Westinghouse and EDF agreed in July 2022 to investigate the functionalities of Westinghouse's EnCore ATF technology. Westinghouse said earlier that it would deliver EnCore assemblies with lead test rods to EDF from its fuel fabrication facility in Västerås, Sweden, during 2023. Various types of ATF fuel are also under development in Russia.


Image: The PROtect EATF lead fuel assembly (courtesy of Framatome)

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