BWXT announces advances in 3D printing of reactor components

24 November 2020

New additive manufacturing technologies for the design and manufacture of reactor components made from high-temperature alloys and refractory metals have been developed by BWX Technologies (BWXT) in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Such components could find applications in current and advanced reactors, as well as in accident-tolerant fuels.

Advanced reactors are designed to operate at very high temperatures, and the ability to additively manufacture parts from these alloys and metals can further speed their development, BWXT said.

Amongst the first selections under the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy's US Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity announcement, BWXT was awarded USD5.4 million in cost-sharing funds in April 2018. In cooperation with ORNL, BWXT was to develop the ability to implement additive materials manufacturing to the fabrication process for nuclear components and sub-components that will yield acceptable material structure and strength that can be accepted by the national code organisations and the regulator.

BWXT says it has now demonstrated the ability to additively manufacture nickel-based super alloys and refractory-metal-based alloys for use in nuclear components. The company says it also accomplished component-level qualification, leading to a more efficient certification of nuclear materials configured in complex geometries.

Additive manufacturing technologies will be transformational for the nuclear industry because they enable the creation of shapes not possible with conventional manufacturing techniques, BWXT said. Additionally, verifying the ability to additively manufacture high-temperature super alloys and refractory metals enables designs that possess improved thermal energy management, increased safety margins and accident-tolerant characteristics.

"With refractory metal alloy-based core components, it is conceivable that an advanced reactor can reach core exit temperatures of 2700°F and overall plant efficiencies of approximately 50%," the company said. Additionally, these material developments could have an immediate impact on the current commercial reactor fleet and the goal of achieving an accident tolerant fuel design."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News