Unit 2 of the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, USA, has returned to service loaded with Framatome’s GAIA fuel assemblies containing the first complete Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) concept. Unit 2 resumed operations on 3 April, following its spring refuelling and maintenance outage that began on 10 March.

Southern Nuclear, the plant’s operator, said it had installed “the world’s first complete, fuelled, full-length test assemblies, known as accident tolerant fuel, containing both pellets and claddings”, which France’s Framatome had delivered in January.

“This is an important milestone for Framatome and the industry,” said Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of the Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “We applaud Southern Nuclear’s consistent support of EATF initiatives, and we are pleased to deploy an economical advanced fuel technology that offers operators additional response time and greater operational flexibility.”

With support from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Accident Tolerant Fuel programme, Framatome developed the fuel assemblies with Southern Nuclear as part of Framatome’s PROtect programme of research and development.

Framatome said its “advanced chromium coating added to the state-of-the-art M5 Framatome zirconium alloy cladding” improves high-temperature oxidation resistance and reduces hydrogen generation during loss of cooling. The chromium coating also “greatly reduces” creep to maintain a coolable geometry and has mechanical properties that allow for more operator response time, it added. The coating also offers increased resistance to debris fretting during normal operations, it said.

View the full story at World Nuclear News.