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A lead assembly of Framatome's 100% Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) has successfully completed its first cycle of operation at a US nuclear power plant. The assembly was inserted into unit 2 of the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland during a refueling outage in early 2021.

The PROtect EATF lead fuel assembly (Image: Framatome)

The PROtect EATF lead fuel assembly (LFA) was removed and inspected during a refueling outage earlier this year with the results confirming the integrity of the technology after two years in operation, Framatome said. The assembly is now operating in its second two-year cycle of operation.

Developed with funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) under Framatome's PROtect programme, the LFA contains 176 chromium-coated rods and chromia-enhanced pellets, which the company says 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 Generation.

"Following 24 months of operation, testing and inspections confirm the robust fuel characteristics safely withstood in-reactor conditions and performed as designed," the company noted.

Framatome said the milestone marks significant progress in the development of ATF technology and "an important step toward market readiness".

"The accelerated delivery and proven performance of our technology reflects the dedication and expertise of our people with the collaborative support from the industry," said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president at Framatome's fuel business unit. "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."

This EATF fuel assembly builds on previous work that included completing 18- and 12-month fuel cycle tests on lead fuel rods in the USA and Switzerland, respectively, Framatome said.

Last month, Framatome signed a collaboration agreement with EDF to load four lead PROtect EATF assemblies into one of EDF's French reactors by the end of this year. These lead fuel assemblies will be manufactured in Framatome facilities in France.

Accident-tolerant fuel is a term used to describe new technologies that enhance the tolerance of light-water reactor fuel under severe accident conditions as well as offering improvements to reactor performance and economics. Such fuels may incorporate the use of new materials and designs for cladding and fuel pellets.

Three vendors - Framatome, GE Hitachi with GNF, and Westinghouse - are working with DOE to develop new fuels under its Accident Tolerant Fuel Program.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 27 July 2023
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