First test cycle successfully completed at Hatch plant

March 16, 2020, 12:03PMNuclear News

The lead test rods for the world’s first installed accident tolerant fuel (ATF) have completed a full cycle at Unit 1 of the Hatch nuclear power plant in Baxley, Ga. Southern Nuclear Operating Company operates the two-unit plant.

During a planned spring 2020 maintenance and refueling outage at Unit 1, operators transferred a sampling of the lead test rods from the reactor to the spent fuel pool. An initial inspection of the fuel in comparison to standard zirconium rods has been completed.

Technicians survey a test batch of the world’s first installed accident tolerant fuel after a full cycle at the Hatch-1 nuclear power plant. Photo: Southern Nuclear

During a planned spring 2020 maintenance and refueling outage at Unit 1, operators transferred a sampling of the lead test rods from the reactor to the spent fuel pool. An initial inspection of the fuel in comparison to standard zirconium rods has been completed.

“Our initial inspections have confirmed that the fuel performed as expected and we anticipate leveraging this success and data with our fuel vendors into the continued development of this innovative technology,” said John Williams, fuel and analysis director for Southern Nuclear. “We will continue to pursue solutions like advanced fuel that enhance the performance and reliability of our operating plants and ensure the safety and health of our customers and our employees.”

Oak Ridge National Laboratory will conduct further evaluations of the lead test rods’ material and coating properties. The data obtained from this analysis will be used by Southern Nuclear and fuel vendor Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) to guide future development of ATF technologies and provide information to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing review process. The test rods were originally installed at Hatch in 2018. The industry is pursuing the licensing and full commercial deployment of ATF by the mid-2020s.

The test rods were developed by GNF with support from the Department of Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuel program. ATF offers several potential operational and safety enhancements for nuclear power facilities, including reduced hydrogen buildup, improved fission product retention, and more structural resistance to radiation, corrosion, and high temperatures. Those enhancements may allow plants to run for longer periods of time at higher power—leading to higher profit margins for the plants.


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