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Additive Manufacturing of Spacer Grids for Nuclear Reactors

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,000,000
Location: 
Pittsburgh, PA
Project Term: 
02/06/2019 to 02/05/2022
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
To compete with other energy sources, next-generation nuclear plants need to incorporate much lower construction capital costs and shorter construction and commissioning times than current practice in existing plants. Fabricating reactor components using traditional manufacturing processes can waste more than 25% of the overall materials purchased. In addition, these components require significant time and labor to assemble.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Carnegie Mellon will combine its expertise in additive manufacturing (AM) with Westinghouse's knowhow in nuclear reactor component fabrication to develop an innovative process for AM of nuclear components. The team chose to redesign nuclear reactor spacer grids as a test case because they are a particularly difficult component to manufacture. The role of spacer grids is to provide mechanical support to nuclear fuel rods within a reactor and reduce vibration as well as cause mixing of the cooling fluid. The team will alter the traditional AM process, including using nonstandard powders to optimize performance and reduce cost. If the project is successful, it could pave the way for other reactor components to be additively manufactured, enabling the rapid deployment of advanced reactors.
Potential Impact: 
Carnegie Mellon's process will inform the development of lower cost, safe, and secure advanced nuclear power plants.
Security: 
The technology supports advanced manufacturing efforts to keep production in the U.S.
Environment: 
AM can substantially disrupt the nuclear vs. fossil fuel competitive landscape by reducing the cost of nuclear reactor components and increasing their performance. These advantages will positively impact energy-related emissions and energy efficiency.
Economy: 
The use of AM can potentially provide cost savings in fabricating next generation reactor components and replacement parts for legacy nuclear systems.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Zak Fang
Project Contact: 
Prof. Jack Beuth
Partners
Westinghouse Electric Company LLC
Release Date: 
11/15/2018