A Legacy of Successful Systems

Photo of a worker holding a hard hat in their left hand next to their side

Engineers are always striving to improve on their designs, no matter how successful. Framatome’s experts have established a track record of consistent innovation while keeping solutions for customer challenges front of mind.

A perfect example is Framatome U.S. Government Solutions and their legacy of remote rod handling and inspection systems used in national laboratories. This remote-controlled system allows for required post-irradiation examination testing of fuel rods. Over a decade after the installation of their original Framatome-designed and -built system, one lab needed a rod handling system upgrade for their irradiated fuels examination laboratory.

The requirements were stringent: An in-cell machine for fuel rod handling, an out-of-cell equipment rack containing the electronic controls and computer systems and a custom-designed platform for full-length fuel rod examination inside the hot cell.

The entire system needed to fit into the hot cell spatial envelope; interface with other structures, systems, and components using application software; use as much of the existing mounting platform as possible; meet nuclear quality-control requirements and traceability; and perform in harsh environmental conditions, including hot cell dose rates of 50 R/hr. background and 20,000 R/hr. at one inch from the fuel rods.

It needed to be capable of handling — with high precision in a remote environment — a fragile radioactive fuel rod with a fragile coating. The system also needed to be able to accommodate a variety of sizes and lengths of fuel rods and to move those rods in and out of various instruments and diagnostic equipment efficiently, while being entirely remotely maintained.

After a competitive bidding process, Framatome was selected to design and build the replacement system, which benefitted from technology developments made since the original design and construction.

After installation in 2023, the new system has proven to be even more successful than the original. Now, a new customer with similar needs and functional requirements is looking to Framatome USGS for a rod control and inspection system with adjustments made for a smaller footprint, special shielding requirements, and additional instrumentation. With each generation of this fuel rod handling equipment, the latest lessons learned, innovative controls and available technologies are incorporated to meet evolving customer needs and further an already established legacy of success.

View a PDF version of this success story.