Framatome EATF completes first fuel cycle

03 February 2021

Lead assemblies of Framatome's GAIA Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) have completed their first 18-month fuel cycle at a US nuclear power plant. This is the first time a full-length EATF concept with both pellets and cladding has completed a fuel cycle in a reactor.

Inspecting a GAIA EATF assembly (Image: Framatome)

The four lead fuel assemblies were removed during a refuelling outage in August, and "demonstrated expected results and excellent performance", Framatome said. Two further 18-month cycles of operation are planned for the assemblies, with detailed inspections and measurements following the remaining two fuel cycles.

"This significant milestone confirms that our EATF technology performs to the industry's highest standards," Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of Framatome's Fuel Business Unit, said.

GAIA EATF was developed by Framatome as part of its PROtect programme and has received support from the US Department of Energy's Accident Tolerant Fuel programme. The assemblies consist of Framatome's advanced chromium coating added to M5 zirconium alloy cladding, and chromia-enhanced fuel pellets. The chromium-coated cladding improves high-temperature oxidation resistance and reduces hydrogen generation in the event of a loss of cooling. The innovative coating also offers increased resistance to debris fretting, reducing the likelihood of a fuel failure during normal operations.

Chromia-enhanced fuel pellets have a higher density, reduced fission gas release and improved behaviour under transient conditions and also offer improvements in performance.

The LFAs were fabricated at Framatome's manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington and loaded into unit 2 of Southern Nuclear's Vogtle plant in Georgia during a refuelling outage in the spring of 2019.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News