Westinghouse expands fuel offerings of Columbia plant

29 August 2023

Westinghouse has announced the creation of a centre of excellence for Low Enriched Uranium Plus (LEU+) fuel manufacturing at its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) in Hopkins, South Carolina.

The Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (Image: Westinghouse)

"The demand for LEU+ fuel in the range of 5–10% enrichment is expected to grow significantly in the coming years due to increased power generation which reduces the number of outages needed in nuclear plants," the company said. "Westinghouse has initiated the work to expand its operations at CFFF with advanced processes, upgraded equipment, and engineered safeguards for sustainable, efficient, and reliable fabrication of LEU+ nuclear fuel."

"Westinghouse is committed to providing fuel products and engineering services required by our customers to achieve 24-month cycles through our High Energy Fuel Program," said Westinghouse's president of nuclear fuel, Tarik Choho. "The programme is aligned with our customers' needs for LEU+ fuel. Further, this vision will provide high-tech job opportunities and increase collaboration with our local technical colleges and universities in South Carolina."

Westinghouse said its High Energy Fuel Program paves the way for utilities to leverage high burnup, higher enrichment (LEU+) and accident tolerant technologies for 24-month cycle operation and improved safety, economics, and reliability. The programme includes innovations such as EnCore Fuel, AXIOM fuel rod cladding, PRIME fuel advanced features and ADOPT fuel.

The company's EnCore Fuel programme is centred on the use of high-performance features that are "being developed and deployed on a strategic timeline" so utilities can gain safety and cost benefits quickly. It has begun with an improved chromium-coated cladding that inhibits the zirconium-steam reaction and increases maximum temperature by an additional 300°C. Westinghouse is also developing advanced fuel rod materials such as silicon-carbide cladding, which has an extremely high melting point and minimal reaction with water and steam.

AXIOM is Westinghouse's next generation of fuel rod cladding targeting high fuel duties, improved corrosion resistance, lower hydrogen pick-up and lower creep and growth when compared with current Westinghouse products. In December 2022, Westinghouse received approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to use its AXIOM Fuel Rod Cladding in US pressurised water reactors (PWRs).

Westinghouse said its PRIME advanced fuel features help to improve fuel performance, enhance fuel reliability, enable enhanced fuel cycle economics and provide additional margin at uprated conditions and higher burnup.

The company has also developed Advanced Doped Pellet Technology (ADOPT) Fuel to improve fuel cycle economics and enhance the accident tolerance of conventional uranium dioxide fuel pellets. In November of last year, Westinghouse received approval from the NRC to use its ADOPT Fuel in US PWRs.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News