3D-printed components installed in nuclear reactor

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The 3D printed channel fasteners were produced for a boiling water reactor fuel assembly. (Image: Framtome)

Four 3D-printed fuel assembly brackets have been installed and are now under routine operation at a nuclear reactor facility in Athens, Alabama.

The brackets, in the form of channel fasteners for French nuclear reactor firm Framatome’s boiling water reactor fuel assembly, were installed at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant earlier this year. 

They will remain in the reactor for six years, with regular inspections carried out during that period.

Developed at the US Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the brackets represent a significant milestone, according to the laboratory’s Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR) programme manager Ben Betzler. 

'It shows that it is possible to deliver qualified components in a highly regulated environment,’ he said. ‘This programme bridges basic and applied science and technology to deliver tangible solutions that show how advanced manufacturing can transform reactor technology and components.'

The current focus of the TCR programme 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.

The channel fasteners’ straightforward, though non-symmetric, geometry was a good match for what the ORNL says is ‘the first-ever additive manufacturing application for use in a nuclear reactor’.

‘We are trying to help create and certify the next generation of nuclear components,’ said Ryan Dehoff, leader of the ORNL’s Deposition Science and Technology Group. ‘ORNL offers everything under one roof: state-of-the-art printing capabilities, world-class expertise in machining, next-generation digital manufacturing technologies, plus comprehensive characterisation and testing equipment.’

ORNL’s broad nuclear research and development activities are directed toward providing science and technology breakthroughs to extend the viability and operations of the US' nuclear power plant fleet, while also accelerating the deployment of new, advanced nuclear power technologies.

Canadian firms join forces to develop AM parts for the nuclear power sector 

Canadian firms Burloak Technologies and Kinectrics have announced a collaboration agreement to develop additively manufactured parts for the nuclear power sector.

Together the two firms will optimise the design and manufacturability of a range of components and replacement parts for a variety of applications in the nuclear power generating process. The firms will jointly qualify all components developed under the partnership and work together to accelerate adoption of additive manufacturing within the nuclear power sector.

‘The nuclear power generation industry has exacting performance and reliability requirements because reactors simply cannot fail,’ stated Martin Baxendale, VP of operations at Burloak. ‘We look forward to working with Kinectrics to leverage our collective knowledge to offer performance and cost benefits to nuclear operators.’

‘Kinectrics looks forward to working with Burloak to bring additively manufactured safety-critical parts to the global nuclear power generation industry with increased quality, shorter lead times, complex geometries, and a lower overall cost of ownership,’ said David Harris, president and CEO of Kinectrics. ‘Burloak’s experience in the global additive manufacturing industry, coupled with Kinectrics’ extensive nuclear experience and deep understanding of materials, testing, codes and standards, nuclear regulation, and safety critical applications, will offer its clients innovative solutions for plant obsolescence issues and new options for small modular reactors.’