The four components will be loaded into TVA’s three-unit Browns Ferry nuclear power station in early 2021. The channel fasteners secure the fuel channel to the assembly.
They were printed at ORNL using additive manufacturing techniques – also known as 3D printing – and installed on Atrium 10XM boiling water reactor fuel assemblies at Framatome's nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington.
Channel fasteners have traditionally been fabricated from expensive castings and required precision machining. Additive manufacturing is a more efficient way to achieve the tight specifications of these components.
Framatome’s initiative to introduce additive manufacturing to nuclear fuel began in 2015 and is focused on stainless steel and nickel-based alloy fuel assembly components. Framatome fuel experts in France, Germany and the US developed this technology in close collaboration with customers worldwide.
In May, Westinghouse announced that it had completed the first-of-a-kind installation of a 3D-printed thimble plugging device at Exelon’s Byron-1 nuclear unit in the state of Illinois.
Westinghouse said at the time it has been pursuing the use of powder bed fusion, an additive manufacturing technique that uses either a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse material powder together, layer by layer. The company said the technique cans be used for applications including complex and next-generation components; obsolete and difficult-to-procure components; and unique components such as prototypes, mockups and tooling.