AM for EnergyIndustrial Additive ManufacturingNuclear Energy

Westinghouse produces 1,000th 3D printed component for VVER-440 fuel

This latest nuclear energy industry achievement marks the first-ever safety-related 3D printed part to enter serial production

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Westinghouse Electric Company recently reached a significant milestone by manufacturing its 1,000th 3D printed fuel flow plate for VVER-440 reactor fuel. This particular component represents a major nuclear energy industry achievement as it is the first-ever safety-related 3D printed part to enter serial production.

The AM flow plates are installed in VVER-440 fuel assemblies, enabling a redesign of the assemblies’ bottom part that results in a more robust performance. VVER reactors are water-water energetic reactor and are described by the acronyms WWER or VVER (from Russian: водо-водяной энергетический реактор which transliterates as Vodo-Vodyanoi Enyergeticheskiy Reaktor). These are a series of pressurized water reactor designs originally developed in the Soviet Union by OKB Gidropress. VVER reactors were originally developed before the 1970s, and have been continually updated. As a result, the name VVER is associated with a wide variety of reactor designs spanning from generation I reactors to modern generation III+ reactor designs. The VVER-440 Model V230 was the most common design, delivering 440 MW of electrical power. Last September, Westinghouse delivered its first reload batch of VVER-440 fuel assemblies to Energoatom, the state-owned nuclear utility of Ukraine.

A typical design feature of nuclear reactors is layered safety barriers preventing the escape of radioactive material. VVER reactors have three layers: Fuel rods: the hermetic Zirconium alloy (Zircaloy) cladding around the uranium oxide sintered ceramic fuel pellets provides a barrier resistant to heat and high pressure.

The fuel of the VVER reactor is uranium dioxide (UO2), which is compacted into cylindrical pellets of about 9 mm in height and 7.6 mm in diameter. The fuel pellets along with the cladding constitute the fuel rod. The reactor core is made up of 312 fuel assemblies, 37 control rods and the coolant, which is light water and also serves as moderator.

“This achievement showcases the development of additive manufacturing from prototyping to full-scale production, generating tangible value for our customers,” said Lou Martínez Sancho, Westinghouse Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President, R&D and Innovation. “This marks another Westinghouse pioneering achievement in AM Technology holding the commitment to strengthen safety, efficiency, sustainability and energy security.”

Westinghouse produces 1,000th 3D printed component for VVER-440 fuel, the first-ever safety-related AM part to enter serial production
In 2020, Westinghouse installed the first ever safety-related AM component, a Thimble Plugging Device, into an operating commercial reactor

The 1000th 3D printed VVER fuel part milestone is a continuation of Westinghouse’s leadership in deploying AM in the nuclear industry to achieve cost and lead-time reductions and enable cutting-edge solutions for energy generation. 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.

As the world rediscovers nuclear energy as a cleaner and more efficient energy generation solution, the entire nuclear energy has scaled up its adoption of AM, which is an ideal technology to meet many of its current and future challenges. AM technology are used for building prototypes and in mainstream production, leading to process simplification and greater operational efficiency. Few energy sectors stand to benefit from AM more than the relaunched nuclear fission industry, along with great hopes for a nuclear fusion-powered future.

In the nuclear energy industry, additive manufacturing plays a crucial role in the production of complex components and prototypes. It enables the rapid fabrication of intricate designs, reducing lead times and costs associated with traditional manufacturing methods. This technology allows for the creation of specialized parts with enhanced durability and precision, which are essential for ensuring the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants. Additionally, 3D printing can be used to produce radiation-resistant materials and tools for maintenance and repair in radioactive environments.

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