Nuclear plant operators are constantly seeking ways to run their plants more safely and efficiently, and fuel is no exception. The Fukushima incident in March 2011 magnified the need to enhance nuclear fuel. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) challenged nuclear fuel suppliers to evaluate light water reactor (LWR) fuels and research ways to provide increased coping time for plant operators in the event of an unanticipated incident. The DOE initiative focuses on developing designs that directly and substantially enhance nuclear fuel reliability and safety, while preserving the economics of nuclear reactor operations.

Our global team of experts tackled the DOE’s challenge by developing our PROtect program, the leading enhanced accident tolerant fuel (EATF) program in the world. We worked overtime to accelerate our research and development, and we leveraged the expertise of our people to provide utilities with both near-term and long-term solutions – the near-term is now. We have combined our EATF features with our most advanced fuel designs including GAIA, our most economical and robust pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel design. In fact, we have already delivered full-length chromium-coated fuel rods with chromia-enhanced pellets, and we have agreements to provide EATF features to two other utilities. DOE recently rewarded our progress with a $49 million contract as part of its $111 million award to U.S. fuel vendors to accelerate the research, and design of additional EATF features and products.

Framatome’s innovative designs are industry-leading solutions that are being delivered to utilities ahead of schedule. This winter we successfully delivered our first lead fuel assemblies (LFAs) from our PROtect program to a U.S. utility. This delivery consisted of the first full-length fuel rod concept, consisting of both chromia-enhanced pellets and chromium-coated rods, built in our Richland, Wash., fuel fabrication facility. Our facilities have production-level capacity to deliver fuel products with EATF features, and we are ready to manufacture fuel designs and concepts for any type of U.S. PWR reactor.