November 04, 2020

Framatome’s breakthrough 3D-printed elements complete first cycle in a reactor

November 4, 2020 – Framatome’s breakthrough 3D-printed nuclear fuel elements successfully completed the first cycle of irradiation in operating conditions. As part of a qualification project, these experimental stainless steel and nickel-based alloy components were installed at the Gösgen Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland in 2019 for a five-cycle program. These components will be further examined to confirm behavior in real operating conditions.

"We are very interested in the innovation and opportunities offered by additive manufacturing of nuclear fuel,” said Dr. Gaëtan Girardin, head of Nuclear Technology at the Gösgen Nuclear Power Plant. “We continually explore technological advancements that drive the efficiencies and performance of our plants. This is why we decided to be the first to introduce these experimental components in our power reactor."

Additive manufacturing accelerates Framatome’s product development and streamlines the manufacturing process to bring high-quality products to market quickly. The innovative technique manufactures metal parts with complex geometries that would be unattainable with traditional processes. It also offers customizations and significant improvements in the performance of manufactured components.

"The evidence-based findings from our research and qualification project, conducted on components produced using additive manufacturing, reinforce our confidence in future uses of this technology,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of the Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “Today, we embark upon the certification of components and additive manufacturing for our nuclear fuel assembly components.”

Framatome will launch additive manufacturing for its industrial manufacturing of fuel assembly components for pressurized water, boiling water and VVER reactors. The technique is also regularly used for other nuclear fuel applications such as rapid prototyping, and manufacturing of test components and fuel production line tools, in-reactor fuel inspection and repair services tools, research reactor fuel assemblies, and uranium metal medical targets.

The additive manufacturing project was initiated in 2015 at Framatome’s prototyping laboratory in Erlangen, Germany. It focuses on additive manufacturing for stainless steel and nickel-based alloy fuel assembly components. The project involves Framatome fuel experts from France, Germany and the U.S., in close collaboration with customers worldwide. The project is also supported by the European Union and U.S. Department of Energy programs and relies on international laboratories and companies recognized for scientific advances in additive manufacturing.