Vogtle Unit 2 to get fuel pellets company officials calls “game changing technology”

Fuel pellets expected to offer nuclear operators more time to respond in emergency situations will be loaded into Plant Vogtle’s unit 2 in 2019.

The chromia-doped fuel pellets are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) Program. Areva NP will begin manufacturing the pellets at its Richland, Wash., facility later this year. Four lead test assemblies featuring chromia additions to the fuel pellets and a chromium coasting to the fuel rod cladding will be loaded into Vogtle Unit 2 in the spring of 2019, according to World Nuclear News, an industry newsletter.

The fuel technology aims to offer reactor operators more time to respond in emergency situations. Chromia-doped fuel pellets have a higher density and help to reduce fission gas release should a reactor lose cooling. The addition of a chromium coating to the fuel’s existing zirconium alloy cladding offers advantages including improved resistance to oxidation at high temperatures, the reduction of hydrogen generation, and resistance to wear, the newsletter stated.

Areva stated earlier this year that it had advanced to phase two of the EATF program. After the initial four-year research phase identified promising technologies, DOE awarded the company a $10 million, two-year grant, plus the continued use and support of its national laboratory facilities, to build on the work, and develop and deploy an EATF concept for light water nuclear reactors. EATF is designed to be more resistant to severe accident conditions.

John Williams, nuclear fuel director for Southern Nuclear Operating Company, which operates Vogtle on behalf of Georgia Power and the plant’s other co-owners, told World Nuclear News that advanced technology fuel assemblies would make plants “even safer” and result in more flexible operations. “This game-changing technology is not a small step, but a leap for our industry,” he said.