French nuclear service business Framatome said in early February that its GAIA Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) technology recently completed its first 18-month fuel cycle at a nuclear power plant in the United States. This milestone marks the first time a full-length EATF concept with both pellets and cladding completed a fuel cycle in a reactor.
The plant’s experts removed and inspected the four lead fuel assemblies (LFAs) during a refueling outage in August and concluded that the fuel demonstrated expected results and excellent performance. This was the first of three planned 18-month cycles of operation for the LFAs, which were inserted into the reactor in April 2019. More detailed inspections and measurements are planned following the remaining two fuel cycles.
Framatome developed the GAIA EATF concept as part of the company's PROtect program. The GAIA fuel assemblies consist of Framatome's advanced chromium coating added to the state-of-the-art M5 zirconium alloy cladding and chromia-enhanced fuel pellets. The chromium-coated cladding improves high-temperature oxidation resistance and reduces hydrogen generation in the unlikely event of loss of cooling. The coating also offers increased resistance to debris fretting, reducing the likelihood of a fuel failure during normal operations.
Compared to previous fuel designs, the chromia-enhanced fuel pellets have a higher density, reduced fission gas release and improved behavior under transient conditions. Reduced pellet-to-cladding interaction also better supports power maneuvering, increasing performance for operators, Framatome said.
The LFAs were fabricated at Framatome's manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington.
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