“This is an important milestone for Framatome and the industry,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president, Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “We applaud Southern Nuclear’s consistent support of EATF initiatives, and we are pleased to deploy an economical advanced fuel technology that offers operators additional response time and greater operational flexibility.”
Under the umbrella of its PROtect program, Framatome’s advanced chromium coating added to the state-of-the-art M5Framatome zirconium alloy cladding improves high-temperature oxidation resistance and reduces hydrogen generation during loss of cooling. The chromium coating also greatly reduces creep to maintain a coolable geometry and has mechanical properties that allow for more operator response time. Further, the innovative coating offers increased resistance to debris fretting during normal operations.
In addition to chromium coated cladding, this integrated fuel solution includes chromia-enhanced fuel pellets, which have a higher density, reduced fission gas release, and improved behavior during loss of cooling. Reduced Pellet Clad Interaction (PCI) also better supports power maneuvering.
Framatome has worked for several years with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuel program, which has allowed the company to significantly improve on its initial target of 2022 to deploy this technology. European partners, like CEA, which initially explored and identified the suitable cladding coating process, and also EDF, Goesgen Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland and leaders from across the nuclear sector have collaborated for several years on aspects of this fuel design.
Framatome fabricated the fuel assemblies at its fuel manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington, as part of a 2017 contract with Southern Nuclear. Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company, operates a total of six units for Alabama Power and Georgia Power.