Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) has shipped lead test assemblies of two of its accident-tolerant fuel solutions engineered and manufactured at its Wilmington facility, GE officials announced in a news release Thursday.
GNF officials said they have shipped IronClad and ARMOR accident-tolerant fuel solutions to Alabama-based Southern Nuclear Operating Co., for plant installation in early 2018.
GNF, a GE-led joint venture with Hitachi Ltd., is a supplier of boiling water reactor fuel and fuel-related engineering services and operates primarily through Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas LLC in Wilmington and Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan Co. Ltd. in Kurihama, Japan.
The company is working with both Birmingham, Alabama-headquartered Southern Nuclear and Pennsylvania-based Exelon Generation to insert lead test assemblies using the 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.
GNF has been working on the development of these technologies for the past few years, with dozens of employees involved, GE spokesman Jon Allen said Thursday.
He said this fuel technology “offers operators more time to respond in emergency situations or other events."
"We believe that our experience and innovation positions us to be an industry leader with this technology," Allen said. The company's focus at this time is to "demonstrate the viability of the technology," he added.
GNF's 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,” GNF CEO Amir Vexler said in the release. “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.”
“We are excited to collaborate with our customers and partners on this important program to lead the industry to an even safer, more reliable and more efficient future,” he added.
The installation of IronClad material at The Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant in southeastern Georgia 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, officials said. ARMOR lead test assemblies that contain fueled coated zirconium rods will be installed in the same reload at the nuclear plant.
Lead test assemblies that include both IronClad and ARMOR fueled rods are planned for installation in 2019 at Exelon Generation’s Clinton Power Station in Illinois.
“We are thrilled to be installing the new test assemblies this spring at Plant Hatch,” John Williams, nuclear fuel director at Southern Nuclear’s headquarters in Birmingham, said in the release. “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. This is not a small step, but a leap for our industry.”
In addition to developing the assemblies, 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,” officials said in the release.