EPRI technology receives R&D 100 award


The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), three member companies: AmerenUE, Exelon Corp., and South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co.; and Dominion Engineering, Inc. (DEI) have earned a prestigious 2005 R&D 100 Award for ultrasonic cleaning of nuclear fuel, a promising new technology that safely removes deposits from irradiated fuel assemblies in nuclear power plants. The annual awards are given by R&D Magazine for the most outstanding technology developments with commercial potential.


"The future of the energy industry relies on pursuing innovative technologies that advance efficient, reliable and environmentally sensitive power generation and transmission," said EPRI CEO Steven R. Specker. "I applaud our team and member companies for their contribution towards this end."

The technology awarded delivers a patented process for removing corrosion products deposited on irradiated nuclear fuel pins using a unique form of ultrasonic technology. The technology was first applied at their nuclear power plants by the three EPRI member companies noted above, using equipment supplied by DEI.

"We were pleased to hear that our technology received an R&D Award," said Christopher J. Wood, a technical manager in EPRI's Nuclear Sector. "This breakthrough technology allows the full potential of current nuclear fuel designs to be achieved while maintaining excellent fuel reliability. Availability of a safe, reliable cleaning technology will also now allow utilities to further optimize fuel performance, core design, and reduce radiation fields and electricity generating costs."

This unique technology, developed in EPRI's Fuel Reliability Program, solves a significant emerging problem by removing deposits from nuclear fuel assemblies in nuclear power plants. Enhancing the performance of nuclear fuel is crucial to continue the improvement in electricity production from nuclear units. Over the past decade, nuclear power production has increased by more than 20%, but this has placed additional demands on the fuel, as fuel temperatures have increased.

Some of the potential problems with fuel reliability result from the buildup of deposits on the surfaces of the fuel elements, which produces an insulating layer that could result in corrosion of the fuel cladding material at increased fuel pin temperatures. Until EPRI's developed technology, there was no effective way of removing these deposits during the working life of the fuel. Including early development demonstrations, this ultrasonic fuel cleaning technology has been used successfully eight times at nuclear power plants in the USA through 2004, and has been licensed worldwide.

Seven additional commercial applications have taken place in 2005, including one in Spain. The technology used cleans all the fuel elements in every fuel assembly without any adverse effects. The cleaning process does not extend the schedule of routine refueling outages, and is very cost-effective in pressurized water reactors. It is expected to result in a major reduction in radiation fields in boiling water reactors.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), with major locations in Palo Alto, California, and Charlotte, North Carolina, was established in 1973 as an independent, nonprofit center for public interest energy and environmental research. EPRI brings together member organizations, the Institute's scientists and engineers, and other leading experts to work collaboratively on solutions to the challenges of electric power. These solutions span nearly every area of power generation, delivery, and use, including health, safety, and environment. EPRI's members represent over 90% of the electricity generated in the United States. International participation represents nearly 15% of EPRI's total R&D program.

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