AM for EnergyMetal Additive ManufacturingNuclear Energy

Westinghouse improves nuclear reactor safety and efficiency with AM

Fabricating bottom nozzles that improve debris capture and fuel endurance within its fuel assemblies

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Westinghouse Electric Company, an American nuclear power company, has used additive manufacturing to fabricate bottom nozzles that improve debris capture and fuel endurance within its fuel assemblies. The nozzles were integrated into four Lead Test Assemblies delivered to Alabama Power’s Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Plant operated by Southern Nuclear, in the first quarter of 2024.

Debris-wearing action on the fuel rod cladding – known as debris fretting – is the primary source of leaks in Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) fuel assemblies. AM technology offers significant improvements in debris filtering thanks to enhanced design freedom which reduces the diameter of debris that can enter into the reactor. In testing, the additively manufactured components demonstrated a 30% improvement in debris resistance.

“Over the past decade, Southern Nuclear has led the industry in the development and implementation of new technologies that improve fuel resiliency,” said Pete Sena, President of Southern Nuclear. “The existing nuclear power fleet is the backbone of our country’s clean energy supply, and we are innovating nuclear fuel today to be more robust in order to deliver safer, more affordable, and more reliable carbon-free clean nuclear power for decades to come.”

“Our additive manufacturing technology is allowing us to achieve breakthrough performance with an immediate positive impact for our customers,” said Tarik Choho, President of Nuclear Fuel at Westinghouse. “This significant technology innovation for PWR reactors mitigates the risk of leakage in the fuel rods due to the accumulation of debris, strengthening the safety and efficiency of our customers’ operations.”

This milestone demonstrates Westinghouse’s leadership in the nuclear industry to achieve cutting-edge solutions using AM techniques. In 2015, the company conducted the first-ever material irradiation study of AM nuclear components. In 2020, Westinghouse installed the first-ever safety-related AM component, a Thimble Plugging Device, into an operating commercial reactor, and in 2024 Westinghouse produced the 1,000th Additive Manufacturing Component for VVER-440 Fuel.

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