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Nuclear reactor components 3D printed by ORNL now installed at TVA Browns Ferry nuclear plant

Four first-of-a-kind 3D-printed fuel assembly brackets, produced at the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have been installed and are now under routine operating conditions at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Unit 2 in Athens, Alabama.

The components were developed in collaboration with TVA, Framatome and the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy–funded Transformational Challenge Reactor, or TCR, program based at ORNL.

Deploying 3D-printed components in a reactor application is a great milestone. It shows that it is possible to deliver qualified components in a highly regulated environment. This program bridges basic and applied science and technology to deliver tangible solutions that show how advanced manufacturing can transform reactor technology and components.

—Ben Betzler, TCR program director

3D-printed channel fastener_0

ORNL used novel additive manufacturing techniques to 3D print channel fasteners for Framatome’s boiling water reactor fuel assembly. Four components, like the one shown here, were installed at the TVA Browns Ferry nuclear plant. Credit: Framatome

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

The current focus of the TCR program 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.

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

Operations at Browns Ferry resumed April 22, 2021, after a planned outage to replace a variety of components for continued safe, reliable operation and delivery of carbon-free electricity. The brackets will remain in the reactor for six years with regular inspections during that period.


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