Framatome’s first complete accident tolerant fuel assembly is in operation at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland. The lead fuel assembly is the first of its kind to be inserted into a commercial reactor and was developed through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Accident Tolerant Fuel program.
The advanced fuel will operate in the reactor for the next four to six years and will be routinely inspected to monitor its performance.
A Major Upgrade
The lead fuel assembly was fabricated at the company’s manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington, as part of a 2019 contract with Exelon Generation. It was delivered to Maryland and inserted into the plant’s Unit 2 reactor during a recent refueling outage in the spring. The assembly contains 176 chromium-coated fuel rods and chromia-enhanced pellets that improve tolerance to changes in the reactor core and are expected to reduce corrosion and hydrogen production under high-temperature conditions.
The new fuel prototype builds on previous testing in the U.S. and Switzerland through Framatome’s PROtect program, which aims to deliver the first major upgrade to the industry’s fuel and cladding technologies since the 1970s.
“Loading the first complete accident tolerant fuel assembly is a huge milestone for Framatome and the nuclear energy industry,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice-president, Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “This is the next step in our PROtect program and further demonstrates our commitment to advancing nuclear fuel technology by offering more efficient and reliable solutions to support the production of low-carbon energy.”
“This is a major milestone for Framatome, Exelon, and the entire industry at large,” said Frank Goldner, a nuclear engineer within DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. “Accident tolerant fuels are expected to enhance the performance of today’s reactors and will help fuel our future path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.”
Framatome is one of three U.S. fuel vendors working with DOE to develop new fuel and cladding mixtures that could help improve the overall economics and performance of today’s reactors.
Framatome, Westinghouse, and General Electric are all currently on track to have their accident tolerant fuels ready for batch loading by the mid-2020s and with commercial widespread adoption by 2030.
Learn more about our Accident Tolerant Fuel program.