3D-printed fuel component installed at Swedish reactor

21 September 2022

Framatome has completed the installation of the first 3D-printed, stainless steel fuel component at Vattenfall's Forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden. In collaboration with German pump and valve manufacturer KSB, the Atrium 11 upper tie plate grids were designed, manufactured, and installed in Forsmark unit 3 for a multi-year irradiation programme.

Framatome's 3D-printed Atrium 11 upper tie plate grid (Image: Framatome)

Located at the top of the Atrium 11 fuel assembly, the upper tie plate grid is a non-structural weight-bearing component that secures fuel rods and retains larger debris from entering the fuel assembly from the top. Upper tie plate grids are easily inspected, and samples are accessible for qualifying this new manufacturing process for in-reactor use as needed.

During the conventional manufacturing process, upper tie plate grids are laser welded, using stamped comb-like sheets that require additional manufacturing steps and operator oversight.

Framatome said additive manufacturing of the components streamlines the manufacturing process and increases design options for enhanced functionality and improved performance.

"Advancements in the integrity of components manufactured using 3D-printing are revolutionary in the generation of safe, reliable low-carbon energy for long-term operations," said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of Framatome's Fuel Business Unit. "We appreciate Vattenfall for opening its doors and providing a steppingstone for future innovations and developments that will replace conventional manufacturing."

"The safe operation of fuel assemblies is key to Vattenfall," said Ella Ekeroth of Vattenfall Nuclear Fuel AB. "Along with this basic principle, our contributions to the development of efficient and reliable manufacturing processes are in the best interest of the entire nuclear industry. The overall goal of these activities is to maintain and further enhance safety and enable economically viable long-term operations."

Framatome's initiative to introduce additive manufacturing to nuclear fuel began in 2015 and is focused on stainless steel and nickel-based alloy fuel assembly components. In 2021, a 3D-printed stainless steel fuel assembly channel fastener created by Framatome in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory was loaded into unit 2 of the Tennessee Valley Authority's Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama. Framatome fuel experts in France, Germany and the USA developed this technology in close collaboration with customers worldwide.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News