Framatome has completed the second 18-month cycle of its GAIA Protect Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) technology at Vogtle’s Unit 2 in Waynesboro, Ga. Inspections afterward revealed that the full-length chromium-coated fuel rods maintained their original characteristics, while the chromia-enhanced pellets operated as designed during 36 months of reactor operation.
GAIA fuel assemblies: The four GAIA lead fuel assemblies are made of Framatome’s advanced chromium coating applied to zirconium alloy cladding, together with the chromia-enhanced fuel pellets. This design is meant to increase resistance to debris fretting, reduce the risk of fuel failure, and improve safety conditions for operators. The fuel assemblies, which were fabricated at the Framatome facility in Richland, Wash., and are the first of their kind operating in the United States, were inserted into the reactor in April 2019. Framatome developed the technology with the support of the Department of Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuel program.
Inspections: The post-cycle inspections were performed by Southern Nuclear, which operates the Vogtle plant. Inspectors removed and examined all four fuel assemblies during the spring refueling outage, confirming that the system operated as expected. A third and final 18-month fuel cycle was then commenced, and that will be followed by more comprehensive evaluations.
Important step: Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of Framatome’s Fuel Business Unit, said that the latest inspection results demonstrated that “our technology performs to the industry’s highest standards. The performance of this fuel after three years in a reactor core is a very important step in the development and industrialization of innovative solutions for our customers.”