Framatome receives go-ahead for higher enrichment fuel transport

24 February 2022

Framatome has received approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of a licence amendment allowing its shipping containers to be used to transport fresh nuclear fuel with enrichment above 5%.

Framatome's NRC-licensed containers can now be used for fuel enriched to over 5% (Image: Framatome)

The NRC approval means that Framatome's licensed containers can be used to transport fresh fuel assemblies containing uranium-235 enrichments of up to 8% by weight to US customers.

The company said approval for the transport of fuel above the industry-standard 5% enrichment level is a regulatory milestone. "The NRC approval is essential as we develop fuel products that will systematically enhance safety, reliability and plant economics for the nuclear industry," said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of Framatome's fuel business unit.

Nuclear fuel with higher enrichment and burnup capabilities provides significant operational margin gains and provide greater flexibility for reactor performance, the company said. This allows nuclear plant operators to extend cycle times and design more efficient core configurations while improving plant economics.

Fuel vendors and power reactor licensees are exploring the possibility of increasing the maximum enrichment of fuel up to 10%, but NRC regulations currently limit uranium-235 enrichment levels in power reactor fuel to no more than 5% by weight. In June 2021, the NRC accepted for review a topical report to apply Framatome's suite of Advanced Codes and Methods to operating conditions with uranium-235 enrichments above 5%.

"These milestones with the NRC position Framatome as a leader in providing innovative fuel technology with significant margin gains for nuclear plant operators," the company said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News