When a fuel assembly is completed at our Richland fuel manufacturing facility, it goes into a storage room we call the “forest.” At a facility that churns out more than 2,000 fuel assemblies each year, having fuel assemblies hang like trees suspended from the ceiling, awaiting insertion into shipping containers, is an ordinary occurrence.

However, in January, the ordinary became the extraordinary. Four lead fuel assemblies, unlike any other fuel assemblies in the world, now hung in the forest. These unique fuel assemblies each contained rods loaded with Cr-enhanced pellets, including four, full-length chromium-coated rods – a first in our PROtect Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) program and a first in the industry – added to our next-generation pressurized water reactor fuel design known as GAIA. You could even see the difference in these assemblies. Each corner rod in the lead fuel assemblies (LFAs) has a metallic matte finish, duller than the other normal rods in the 17×17 array.

Late in January, the LFAs made their journey from our facility to the customer’s plant site, marking the successful completion and delivery of an industry first from the Richland facility – and fulfilling a promise we made to our customer. The assemblies will be loaded into the plant’s reactor core during an upcoming outage this spring.

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