Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) said this week it had shipped lead test assemblies of its IronClad and ARMOR accident tolerant fuel solutions to Southern Nuclear Operating Company for plant installation early this year.
GNF is working with Southern Nuclear, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., operating a fleet of six reactors, and Chicago-based Exelon Generation with a fleet of 15 reactors. The plan is to insert lead test assemblies utilizing an iron-chromium-aluminum fuel cladding material, known as IronClad, and coated zirconium fuel cladding, known as ARMOR, into several reactors over the next few years.
The IronClad lead test assemblies will be the first developed through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel program to be installed in a commercial nuclear reactor.
“We are exploring many technologies for our advanced fuel portfolio but believe that our expertise and experience with ferritic steel and coated zirconium cladding will enable us to put this enhanced solution to work more quickly for our customers,” said Amir Vexler, GNF chief executive officer.
“Accident tolerant fuel technology offers superior safety margin to address a beyond design basis event and the potential for more cost-effective operation of the existing boiling water reactor fleet,” he added.
GNF developed the ARMOR coating, which is applied to a standard zirconium fuel rod, to provide debris resistance and more oxidation resistance than standard zirconium cladding.
The installation of IronClad material at Plant Hatch includes two variations of the iron-chromium-aluminum material. One material will be in fuel rod form but will not be fueled while the other material is in the form of a solid bar segment. ARMOR lead test assemblies that contain fueled coated zirconium rods will be installed in the same reload at Plant Hatch. Lead test assemblies that include both IronClad and ARMOR fueled rods are planned for 2019 installation at Exelon Generation’s Clinton Power Station.
“Our top priority is the safety and health of the public and our employees, and this game-changing technology will make plants even safer, resulting in more flexibility in our operations,” said nuclear fuel director at Southern Nuclear John Williams. “This is not a small step, but a leap for our industry,” he said.
Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company operates Plant Hatch on behalf of Georgia Power and co-owners Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities.
GNF’s IronClad material is designed to provide substantial oxidation resistance and excellent material behavior over a range of conditions. The low oxidation rates of this material at higher temperatures further improves safety limit margins. In addition to developing the assemblies for insertion, GNF has been working closely with suppliers to establish robust fabrication processes for the cladding and with industry leaders, including utilities, national laboratories and other fuel vendors, to assess the economic benefit of ferritic steel-clad fuel rods and on advanced technology fuel solutions more generally.
GNF’s ARMOR coated zirconium cladding provides enhanced protection of fuel rods against debris fretting. ARMOR also provides oxidation resistance and superior material behavior over a range of conditions making it an attractive technology to improve safety limit margins and abrasion resistance. The lead test assemblies were engineered and manufactured at GNF’s state-of-the-art facility in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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