ORNL equips TVA Browns Ferry nuclear plant with 3D printed nuclear reactor components

ORNL 3D prints channel fasteners for Framatome’s boiling water reactor fuel assembly. Four components, like the one shown here, were installed at the TVA Browns Ferry nuclear plant. | French: ORNL imprime en 3D des attaches de canal pour l'assemblage de combustible de réacteur à eau bouillante de Framatome. Quatre composants, comme celui illustré ici, ont été installés à la centrale nucléaire TVA de Browns Ferry. Credit: Framatome

This project provides the foundation for designing and manufacturing a variety of 3D-printed parts that will contribute to creating a clean energy future”, John Strumpell, manager of North America Fuel R&D at Framatome.

As far as we can remember, we have always seen the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) work in collaboration with AM technologies’ providers on research projects, the ultimate being to help develop new technology solutions for the AM industry.

It looks like the organization wears many hats as it provides industries with printing capabilities, expertise in machining, next-generation digital manufacturing technologies, plus comprehensive characterization and testing equipment.

Today, the research institute highlights what they can do at the manufacturing level.  Indeed, the engineering team at their Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility has 3D printed fuel assembly brackets which have now been installed at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Unit 2 in Athens, Alabama.

The components are now under routine operating conditions at the nuclear plant. According to the ORNL team, the channel fasteners’ straightforward, though non-symmetric, geometry was a good match for an additive manufacturing application for use in a nuclear reactor.

“Deploying 3D-printed components in a reactor application is a great milestone,” said ORNL’s Ben Betzler, TCR program director. “It shows that it is possible to deliver qualified components in a highly regulated environment. This program bridges basic and applied science and technology to deliver tangible solutions that show how advanced manufacturing can transform reactor technology and components.”

A press communication explains that the current focus of the TCR program is to further mature and demonstrate industry-ready technology informed by advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, integrated sensing and deployment of a digital platform for informed certification of components.

TVA is actively engaged in developing new nuclear technology for tomorrow,” said Dan Stout, TVA’s director of Nuclear Technology Innovation. “Partnering with ORNL and Framatome in this innovative manufacturing approach could pave the path for use across the existing nuclear fleet and also in advanced reactors and small modular reactors.”

Operations at Browns Ferry resumed April 22, 2021, after a planned outage to replace a variety of components for continued safe, reliable operation and delivery of carbon-free electricity. The brackets will remain in the reactor for six years with regular inspections during that period.

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