“Framatome’s ELAN workshop at the Rugles factory is home to the new hot rolling machine, which is the only system of its type in Europe and one of only a few in the world that can produce the type of sheet metal needed for fuel assemblies in nuclear power plants,” said Bernard Fontana, CEO of Framatome. “Our investments in Rugles represent €22 million in capital improvements, allowing us to strengthen our performance in terms of quality, delivery and costs when it comes to producing harder metal raw materials for our customers.”
The Rugles factory receives large pieces of zirconium, called billets, from the Framatome site at Ugine in Savoie, France. Those billets are 12 to 16 centimeters thick. The hot rolling machine exposes the billets to temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and a pressure of up to 1,500 tons to flatten them into sheets as thin as 3 millimeters. The resulting pieces of sheet metal then go through additional processing to turn them into grids and casings for nuclear fuel assemblies.
The new hot rolling machine weighs about 90 tons and is 4 meters tall. TS Plzeň manufactured the machine in the Czech Republic.
Framatome invests approximately €3 million in its Rugles factory each year to modernize its facilities and manufacturing processes for the future.