France’s Orano has obtained transport approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) enabling its continued commercial and industrial development in the US.

The TN Eagle is Orano's latest generation packaging model, for the transport and dry storage of used NPP fuel. The packaging was approved in 2020 by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire – ASN) in accordance with the latest regulations from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It had previously undergone rigorous testing to demonstrate its robustness and resistance to extreme transport conditions. For the United States, the format for storing used fuel in canisters required adapting TN Eagle’s design.

The production of the TN Eagle is based on innovative manufacturing processes. The packaging is assembled in half the time of equivalent models on the market through the use of fully automated manufacturing lines and without welding. Several models of the TN Eagle have been manufactured, confirming the technical feasibility of the processes.

At the beginning of February, Orano launched the construction of the new TN Eagle 4.0 manufacturing factory, the TN Eagle Factory, with the support of the France Relance investment fund. This new production unit, located at the port of Cherbourg, was needed to better manage the growing number of orders for the TN Eagle in Europe, Asia and the US. Its commissioning is planned for 2024. It is only a few kilometres from the Orano NPS Valognes rail terminal and Orano NPS maritime terminal. Production capacity will be 30 TN Eagle casks a year. The new facility will enable delivery to customers in less than 15 months between the launch of the forged shell and the final packaging acceptance.

The innovative design has led to a tenfold decrease in the number of the transport packaging parts and has significantly reduced manufacturing times while increasing safety and competitiveness, explained Frédéric de Agostini, Senior Executive Vice President of Nuclear Packages & Services. “The TN Eagle is a real technological breakthrough compared with other models on the market,” he said.

The TN Eagle is a simple and modular concept involving automated assembly without welding and machining along with a simplified manufacturing process to improve the quality, reduce costs, consolidate the delivery schedule, and secure critical steps of the cask production. A larger supply chain secures procurement and the cheaper design optimises the price-per-fuel-element transported. It also features a neutron absorbing resin with increased long-term resistance to high temperature.

Image: Rendering of the TN Eagle dual-purpose transport cask (courtesy of Orano)