Teamed with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, BWXT Technologies Inc. engineers and designers have developed new 3-D printing technologies for the design and manufacture of reactor components made from high-temperature alloys and refractory metals.
Advanced reactors are designed to operate at very high temperatures, and the ability to use 3-D printing (also called additively manufacturing) to create parts from these alloys and metals can further speed the development of specialty parts for the nuclear power industry.
Specifically, BWXT has demonstrated the ability to additively manufacture nickel-based superalloys and refractory-metal-based alloys for use in nuclear components. The company also accomplished component-level qualification, leading to a more efficient certification of nuclear materials configured in complex geometries. BWXT validated this technology during the successful execution of an advanced nuclear technology development cost-share program awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2018.
“We have a uniquely talented group of engineers and designers at BWXT,” said Ken Camplin, president of the Nuclear Services Group. “Their work will make it far easier for advanced reactor developers to move forward in dealing with a number of critical technical challenges inherent in many of these designs.”
Additive manufacturing technologies will be transformational for the nuclear industry because they enable the creation of shapes not possible with conventional manufacturing techniques. Additionally, verifying the ability to additively manufacture high-temperature superalloys and refractory metals enables designs that possess improved thermal energy management, increased safety margins and accident-tolerant characteristics, the company said.
With refractory metal alloy-based core components, it is conceivable that an advanced reactor can reach core exit temperatures of 2,700°F and overall plant efficiencies of approximately 50%.
Additionally, these material developments could have an immediate impact on the current commercial reactor fleet and the goal of achieving an accident tolerant fuel design.
BWXT plans to use its design expertise and advanced manufacturing capability to reduce the costs of advanced nuclear energy systems. Specifically, BWXT’s designs and manufacturing methods will enhance the power output and longevity of a reactor while maintaining affordable costs to manufacture.
BWXT expects to reduce manufacturing risk over time as outlined in its recent proposal to the Department of Enerrgy's Advanced Reactor Development Program. (ARDP). According to the Department of Energy, ARDP “will speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S. industry. By rapidly developing these advanced reactors that hold so much promise, we can expand access to clean energy and take advantage of market opportunities before key infrastructure and supply chain capabilities are lost.”
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