France’s Framatome announced that its GAIA Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) technology had recently completed its first 18-month fuel cycle at the Vogtle 2 nuclear power plant in the US, marking the first time a full-length EATF concept with both pellets and cladding has completed a fuel cycle in a reactor.
The plant’s experts removed and inspected the four lead fuel assemblies (LFAs) during a refuelling outage in August and concluded that the fuel demonstrated expected results and excellent performance, Framatome said.
The LFAs were fabricated at Framatome's manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington and loaded into Southern Nuclear's Vogtle 2 plant in Georgia in the spring of 2019. This was the first of three planned 18-month cycles of operation for the LFAs, which were inserted into the reactor in April 2019. More detailed inspections and measurements are planned following the remaining two fuel cycles.
“This significant milestone confirms that our EATF technology performs to the industry’s highest standards,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president, Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “Our team is committed to advancing this technology so we can offer our customers enhanced safety, efficiency, reliability, and economic and performance benefits.” Framatome developed the GAIA EATF concept as part of its PROtect programme.
The GAIA fuel assemblies consist of Framatome’s advanced chromium coating added to the state-of-the-art M5 Framatome zirconium alloy cladding, and chromia-enhanced fuel pellets. The chromium-coated cladding improves high-temperature oxidation resistance and reduces hydrogen generation in the unlikely event of loss of cooling. The coating also offers increased resistance to debris fretting, reducing the likelihood of a fuel failure during normal operations. Compared with previous fuel designs, the chromia-enhanced fuel pellets have a higher density, reduced fission gas release and improved behaviour under transient conditions, Famatome said. Reduced pellet-to-clad interaction also better supports power maneuvering, increasing performance for operators.
Read more about Framatome's gloabal efforts to advance nuclear fuel performance (May 2020)
Photo: Assemblies loaded into Vogtle 2 in April 2019 have completed their first cycle (Credit: Southern Nuclear)