AREVA’s Next-Gen BWR Fuel Is Tested in the U.S.

AREVA has installed the first-ever boiling water reactor (BWR) assemblies in the U.S. that features an 11×11 fuel rod array, the French nuclear giant revealed this September.

The new fuel design, the ATRIUM 11, has been used to produce power at two nuclear plants since April, though AREVA declined to name the reactors. However, the company told POWER that to date a total of 40 lead fuel assemblies are operating in five reactors in four countries. Including the two in the U.S., they have also been installed in Switzerland, Finland, and Germany since 2012.

AREVA—a company that has designed and manufactured fuel for both BWRs and pressurized water reactors (PWRs) for 40 years, but which also suffered record losses in 2014—is determined to return to profitability by refocusing on its core nuclear power business. The announcement marks a major milestone for its fledgling lead fuel assembly design, which it says will provide higher intrinsic safety margins. AREVA is also developing the GAIA fuel assembly design for PWRs in parallel with the ATRIUM 11. There is substantial interest in both designs in Europe and in the U.S., the company said.

AREVA said that the fuel design improves safety by reducing fuel operating temperatures and peak cladding stress under operation. “When engineers balance the uranium loading and enrichment, the economic benefit is a bonus,” said AREVA spokesperson Curtis Roberts in September. Additionally, the new design offers better operational flexibility, which is valuable for plants that have implemented power uprates or optimized capacity factor operating strategies, he said.

“Since it has the same external dimensions, the ATRIUM 11 fuel design is installed identically to the existing fuel design operating in each reactor,” Roberts explained. “The fuel burns typically for three cycles and, following each cycle, post-irradiation examinations have been completed showing expected performance.”

The 16 lead fuel assemblies installed at the two unnamed reactors were manufactured at the company’s Richland, Wash., facility (Figure 5). “The completion of these real-life tests will allow delivery (in full-scale quantities) of the ATRIUM 11 design in 2017 in Europe, and 2019 in the U.S.,” said Roberts.

5. New nuclear fuel design.
AREVA’s Ken McKeown inspects an ATRIUM 11 fuel rod assembly bundle at the company’s fuel manufacturing facility in Richland, Wash. Courtesy: AREVA