Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
On August 9th 2021, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) of Tennessee announced that 4 3D printed fuel assembly brackets had been installed on a nuclear reactor at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant of Athens, Alabama. Proclaimed by ORNL as the first of their kind, the parts were developed as part of ORNL’s ongoing Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR) project. Operations at the Browns Ferry plant resumed back in April after a planned outage to replace a variety of parts for what ORNL described as “continued safe, reliable operation and delivery of carbon-free electricity.” In addition, ORNL proclaimed that the brackets would remain in the reactor for the next 6 years and would be regularly inspected.
However, this wouldn’t be the first time that ORNL announced that it would be applying 3D printing to nuclear power. In May 2020, it announced that a group of its researchers were working on a 3D printed nuclear reactor core, which was also part of the TCR project. At the time, the project had decided on an overall design for the reactor core and done what ORNL referred to as a “three-month “sprint”” to demonstrate how fast a prototype version of the core could be 3D printed. (ORNL failed to properly define its use of the word sprint.) The TCR is intended to be switched on for the first time by 2023.
Precedent for 3D printing’s use in nuclear power traces at least as far back as March 2017 with multinational conglomerate Siemens of Munich, Germany. Here, a metal 3D printed fire protection pump impeller was made for the Krško nuclear power plant in Slovenia. The original impeller had been in operation since the plant was commissioned in 1981 and its original manufacturer was no longer in business. Siemens boasted that it had spent several months testing the part to ensure that it met the plant’s quality and safety requirements, and that further testing showed that the material properties of the 3D printed impeller were superior to those of the original.
3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.
Disclaimer: Featured image of “HD.6B.017 (10579211003)” is a work of a United States Department of Energy (or predecessor organization) employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.