France’s Framatome has unveiled a new hot rolling machine during the inauguration of the newly built ELAN workshop located at its Rugles factory in Normandy. This machine rolls and flattens large pieces of zirconium to create pieces of sheet metal that become components in fuel assemblies for nuclear plants.
The new hot rolling machine is the only system of its type in Europe and one of only a few in the world that can produce the type of sheet metal needed for nuclear fuel assemblies, said Framatome CEO Bernard Fontana. “Our investments in Rugles represent €22 million in capital improvements, allowing us to strengthen our performance in terms of quality, delivery and costs when it comes to producing harder metal raw materials for our customers.”
The Rugles factory receives large pieces of zirconium, called billets, from the Framatome site at Ugine in Savoie. The hot rolling machine exposes the billets to temperatures up to 1000 degrees Celsius and a pressure of up to 1500 tons to flatten them into sheets as thin as 3mm. The resulting pieces of sheet metal then go through additional processing to turn them into grids and casings for fuel assemblies. The machine, which weighs about 90 tons, was manufactured by TS Plzen in the Czech Republic.