AREVA’s Richland Test Facility Advances Next-gen Nuclear Fuel


More than 350 yellow thermocouple wires were intertwined, hanging from a cabinet, looking more like a spider web strewn to catch prey rather than strategically connected and placed to test what could be the next generation of nuclear fuel design.

The test took more than 18 months to plan and design, and in the span of just two hours, it successfully documented benchmark data on the sample fuel assembly. The first phase of testing was over.

RTF ImageThe Richland Test Facility (RTF), located at AREVA’s Richland fuel manufacturing facility in Richland, Wash., recently put its revamped Fuel Cooling Test Facility (FCTF) back in operation for the first time in 20 years to examine a unique structure.

The first-of-a-kind test studied heat transfer from fuel rods to the cooling water by heating some of the rods with electricity as water pumped through the test bundle. The resulting data will be used to benchmark advanced codes and methods. Now that the test’s first phase completed successfully, the second phase will begin this fall.

This recent test at the RTF is the latest in a steady stream of examining new and innovative fuel designs as the nuclear industry and private entities search for the next generation of nuclear technology to produce even safer, more reliable and efficient energy.

AREVA’s expertise in methodology and evaluation programs extends from our foundation of 40-plus years successfully testing and complying with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards and regulations. With approximately six test campaigns every year, our workforce continues to expand and deepen its knowledge while developing innovative testing methods.

At 4,400 square feet, AREVA’s Richland Test Facility offers a full spectrum of advanced capabilities in one location. Our broad testing experience with boiler water reactor (BWR) and pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel designs—and new technologies including small modular reactors and traveling wave reactors—builds from our core specialties in hydraulic, fretting, seismic, and mechanical analysis.

This combination of expert workforce and modern facilities makes AREVA a unique partner for developing next-generation technology.

It seems that yellow web of wires may have caught a hint of the future of nuclear energy.

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