Framatome’s accident-resistant fuel completes its first cycle in the United States

Framatome’s 100% Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) assembly has completed its first operating cycle in a US nuclear power plant. The assembly was inserted into Unit 2 of the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland during a refuelling outage in early 2021.

The PROtect EATF program’s main fuel assembly was removed and inspected during a refuelling outage earlier this year. The results confirmed the integrity of the technology after two years of operation, according to manufacturer Framatome. A press release states: “After 24 months of operation, tests and inspections confirm that the fuel’s already proven characteristics have successfully withstood the reactor’s internal conditions and that its performance is in line with expectations.” The assembly is now operating in its second two-year cycle.

Developed with funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) as part of Framatome’s PROtect program, the assembly comprises 176 chromium-coated rods and pellets “doped” with chromium oxide. According to the company, this makes the fuel more tolerant of temperature variations in the reactor core, prolonging reaction time in the event of an accident while reducing corrosion and hydrogen production in high-temperature conditions.

Towards commercial deployment

The fuel was produced at Framatome’s Richland, Washington facility under a 2019 contract with Exelon Generation. “The accelerated delivery and proven performance of our technology is a testament to the know-how and expertise of our teams and the support of our industry. We are moving ever closer to the qualification and industrial implementation of our PROtect EATF technology within nuclear facilities,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “With the adoption and implementation of this new technology, our industrial partners are demonstrating their commitment to improving the safety and performance of their reliable, low-carbon energy operations.”

Further tests of the fuel are also scheduled to take place in France. On June 29, Framatome and EDF announced a collaboration in this area. The aim is to irradiate fuel precursors, including test fuels, as part of Framatome’s PROtect EATF program. The two companies envisage “the production of four precursor assemblies for insertion in one of EDF’s nuclear power plants as early as 2023,” explains Framatome in a press release. ■


By Ludovic Dupin with WNN

Photo: ©Framatome