Westinghouse Electric Company has installed a 3D-printed thimble plugging device in Exelon’s Byron Unit 1 nuclear plant. The installation was made during their spring refueling outage.

Westinghouse Electric Company provides a wide range of nuclear power plant products and services to utilities throughout the world. The company’s products and services include advanced nuclear plant designs, nuclear fuel, service and maintenance as well as instrumentation and control systems. Exelon on the other hand is a US-based energy provider.  

The collaboration between both companies is the result of three years of development work. According to our colleagues from Nuclear Engineering, when Westinghouse embarked on this mission, the nuclear industry did not have any direct radiation experience with additively manufactured materials. Westinghouse was therefore one of the first to take these first steps in the production of a 3D printed component intended for a commercial nuclear reactor. The company had mini-tensile specimens of Stainless-Steel Alloy 316L and Inconel Alloy A718 additively manufactured for testing. Those alloys were the ideal material for crossover to nuclear applications.

A laser powder-bed system has been leveraged for the production, as it fuses layers of powdered metal together.

Over time, the company designed and additively manufactured other fuel components such as a bottom nozzle and an advanced tubular grid. The designs fully take advantage of additive manufacturing. It also affects the freedom component designers have in applying the advantages of the process to think out of the box. This technology has allowed them to better address flow, pressure and other issues to fuel performance with improved designs; issues in a nutshell that they have not been able to address using t traditional manufacturing methods.

 “Westinghouse continues to lead the way with development of the most advanced technologies to help the world meet growing electricity demand with safe, clean and reliable energy,” said Ken Canavan, Westinghouse’s chief technology officer. “Our additive manufacturing program offers customers enhanced component designs that help increase performance and reduce costs, as well as provide access to components that may not be available using traditional manufacturing methods.”

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