The French company said 64 fuel assemblies manufactured at its fuel fabrication facility in Richland, Washington, were loaded into the reactor as part of a standard spring refuelling outage.
It did not name the plant where the fuel had been loaded. In April 2019, Framatome said the first Gaia assemblies had been loaded into the reactor core of Unit 2 at Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear power plant.
Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice-president, fuel business unit at Framatome, said Gaia is the company’s most advanced pressurised water reactor fuel design. The fuel has several advanced features that provide added safety and economic benefits to nuclear plant operators.
Framatome fuel innovation efforts have resulted in Gaia fuel for PWRs and Atrium 11 fuel for boiling water reactors. The first Gaia reload was delivered in Europe in 2019 after a decade of operational and commercial testing.
The Gaia fuel features chromia additions to the fuel pellets and a chromium coating to the fuel rod cladding. The chromia-doped fuel pellets have a higher density and help reduce fission gas release in the event that the reactor loses cooling.
The addition of a chromium coating to standard zirconium alloy cladding offers a number of advantages, including improved high temperature oxidation resistance, substantial reduction of hydrogen generation, coolable geometry and mechanical properties preserved for higher coping time, and additional resistance to debris-fretting.