Westinghouse’s Additive Manufacturing improves safety in operating nuclear reactors

July 2, 2024

July 2, 2024

The fuel assembly bottom nozzle, fabricated using Additive Manufacturing, provides a 30% improvement in debris resistance (Courtesy Westinghouse Electric Company)
The fuel assembly bottom nozzle, fabricated using Additive Manufacturing, provides a 30% improvement in debris resistance (Courtesy Westinghouse Electric Company)

Westinghouse Electric Company LLC, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, USA, has used Additive Manufacturing to fabricate bottom nozzles that improve debris capture and fuel endurance within nuclear fuel assemblies. The nozzles, reported to be a nuclear industry first, 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 pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel assemblies. Additive Manufacturing 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 AM components demonstrated a 30% improvement in debris resistance.

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“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, Southern Nuclear President. “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,” Tarik Choho, Westinghouse President of Nuclear Fuel, shared. “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.”

In 2015, Westinghouse conducted one of the first material irradiation studies of additively manufactured nuclear components. In 2020, Westinghouse installed its first-ever safety-related AM component, a Thimble Plugging Device, into an operating commercial reactor, and in 2024 Westinghouse produced the 1,000th additively manufactured flow plate for VVER-440 fuel assemblies.


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July 2, 2024

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