Framatome’s Accident-Tolerant Fuel Completes First Cycle at U.S. Nuclear Plant

Framatome, the France-based nuclear power company, said its Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) assembly reached a milestone, with the group on July 25 announcing the EATF successfully completed its first cycle of operation at a U.S. nuclear power plant.

The assembly was installed at Unit 2 of the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland during a refueling outage in early 2021. Framatome officials on Tuesday said testing and inspections confirmed the market readiness of the fuel after 24 months of use at Calvert Cliffs.

“The accelerated delivery and proven performance of our technology reflects the dedication and expertise of our people with the collaborative support from the industry. Collectively, we are one step closer in the qualification of our PROtect EATF technology for the nuclear industry,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of the Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “With the adoption and implementation of our advanced technologies, our industry partners continue to demonstrate their commitment to enhance the safety and performance of their reliable, low-carbon, energy operations.”

Accident-tolerant fuel describes new technologies that enhance the tolerance of light-water reactor fuel under severe accident conditions. The fuel also offers improvements to reactor performance and economics. These fuels also may incorporate the use of new materials and designs for cladding and fuel pellets.

DOE Funding

Development of the EATF was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under Framatome’s PROtect program. The lead fuel assembly (LFA), which contains 176 chromium-coated rods and chromia-enhanced pellets, was initially inserted at Calvert Cliffs as part of the plant’s 2021 spring refueling outage.

Framatome on Tuesday said the PROtect EATF LFA was removed and inspected during the 2023 spring refueling outage, and the results confirmed the integrity of the technology after two years in operation. The assembly already has begun its second two-year cycle of operation.

Officials said the EATF fuel assembly builds on previous work by Framatome that included completing an 18-month fuel cycle test, and a 12-month test, on lead fuel rods in the U.S. and Switzereland, respectively. The company has said that the PROtect EATF chromium-coated cladding and chromia-enhanced pellets are more tolerant to changes in reactor core temperatures, which increases 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.

Framatome in June signed a collaboration agreement with France’s EDF to load four lead PROtect EATF assemblies into one of EDF’s reactors in that country by year-end. Those lead fuel assemblies are being manufactured in Framatome facilities in France.

Framatome, along with GE Hitachi with GNF, and also Westinghouse, are working with the U.S. DOE to develop new fuels under that agency’s Accident Tolerant Fuel Program.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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