A Week of Trials and Triumphs for Nuclear
The past week saw interesting developments worldwide for nuclear new builds, small modular reactors (SMRs), and advanced nuclear fuel. Highlighted here: A third U.S. utility will use Framatome’s ATRIUM 11 fuel design; Barakah 1 in the United Arab Emirates is on the cusp of startup; South Africa’s Eskom said it wants to dispose of PBMR Ltd; and the Czech Republic is exploring building an SMR based on boiling water reactor technology.
TVA Third U.S. Utility to Switch to ATRIUM 11 Fuel
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a U.S. corporate agency that operates three nuclear plants (with seven units) to produce 42% of its total generation, will become the third U.S. utility to switch to the ATRIUM 11 fuel design, a boiling water reactor (BWR) assembly manufactured by French nuclear technology giant Framatome.
Framatome said on Feb. 3 that it will provide the state-of-the-art fuel for three reactors at Browns Ferry with the first use planned in 2023. The company launched the advanced fuel design in the U.S. in April 2015, when two unnamed reactors began producing power using it. In September 2018, Framatome signed a contract with Talen Energy to deliver 300 ATRIUM 11 assemblies to the Susquehanna nuclear plant in Berwick, Pennsylvania, in January 2021.
The company’s latest BWR fuel, ATRIUM 11 features an 11×11 fuel rod array, which it says offers increased safety and fuel cycle savings. The fuel also allows operators to run plants more flexibly, responding to fluctuating demand as more intermittent renewables flood the grid. “The unique geometry of ATRIUM 11 inherently increases the amount of energy extracted from the fuel while reducing the power demand on individual fuel rods,” it explained. “As a result, customers can buy less uranium to meet cycle energy targets and increase power maneuvering agility to adapt to an evolving regional generation mix.”
Fuel for Browns Ferry will be manufactured at Framatome’s Richland, Washington, facility. Separately, Framatome will also upgrade the fuel handling equipment at the Browns Ferry, Sequoyah, and Watts Bar nuclear plants on “an accelerated schedule.” The work includes upgrading the refuel bridges at Browns Ferry, the manipulator cranes at both Sequoyah units and Watts Bar Unit 1, and the fuel transfer systems at Watts Bar. Framatome previously upgraded the fuel transfer systems at Sequoyah. The company will also replace the spent fuel bridges at Sequoyah and Watts Bar. Finally, SGT, a joint venture between Framatome and AECOM, will replace four steam generators at Watts Bar Unit 2.
UAE’s Barakah 1 Gets WANO’s Green Light to Start Up
Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) company that is building four APR1400 reactors at the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi, on Jan. 28 said that an extensive operational readiness assessment shows Barakah 1 is ready to start up.
The assessment is part of a pre-start up review (PSUR) performed by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), an international team of nuclear industry experts of which ENEC and its subsidiary Nawah Energy Co. (Nawah) are both members.
Both ENEC and Nawah said culmination of the PSUR, which involved more than 30 support missions and peer reviews by WANO, demonstrates the success of Nawah’s ongoing operational readiness activities. Nawah said it is now preparing to load first nuclear fuel assemblies into Unit 1, likely in the first quarter of this year, once all requirements have been met and Nawah receives an operating license from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the UAE’s independent nuclear regulator. Once the fuel assemblies are loaded into the reactor, Nawah will begin the start-up sequence for power ascension testing