Guest post by Jeff Reed, AREVA NP US EATF Program Manager

AREVA NP recently announced our partnership with Southern Nuclear to load advanced fuel assemblies with Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) features in Georgia’s Vogtle Unit 2. This announcement was a key milestone for AREVA NP, its employees and its partners in support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) enhanced accident tolerant fuel program. As AREVA NP’s EATF Program Manager in the U.S., I’m proud to be part of this exciting new partnership, and I believe we can deliver results that will have a very positive impact on the industry.

As we continue toward 2019 – when we will equip GAIA, our latest pressurized water reactor (PWR) proven fuel design, with chromia-enhanced pellets and chromium-coated cladding for full-scale testing in a U.S. reactor – we celebrate our key milestone successes in the evolution of the DOE’s EATF program.

Research and development of AREVA NP’s EATF technologies has been ongoing for nearly 10 years with our European partners and nearly five years with the DOE. Most recently, research yielded promising results with chromium coatings using a proprietary advanced physical vapor deposition (PVD) coating process. Successful irradiation testing results further validated our chromium-coated cladding technology.

While testing is ongoing, the initial results demonstrate the behaviors we anticipated, and we are very pleased with our progress. Over the coming months, our testing and research on chromia-enhanced fuel pellets and chromium-coated cladding will continue as we retrieve and examine additional rods currently being irradiated under differing conditions in multiple European reactors and as we perfect our fabrication processes and methods.

Last month, visual inspections were performed on chromium-coated rods that were loaded in the reactor pool of a European nuclear power plant. After one irradiation cycle, researchers concluded that our high-quality chromium coating remained adherent and looked perfect. Other coating methods, which have been researched in the past, showed early signs of delamination or separation from the base material.

We are very excited and enthusiastic about this technology and look forward to the next 18 months as we continue to develop the next evolution of nuclear fuel in support of the DOE’s EATF program. The recent contract announcement and irradiation test results demonstrate the commitment of our employees, customers, industrial and research partners, the DOE, U.S. national labs, universities and the nuclear industry as a whole to advancing nuclear fuel technologies for increased margins of safety and improved reliability.

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