French nuclear industry leader Framatome recently manufactured the world’s first uranium-molybdenum and uranium-silicon objects using 3D printing technology. The objects were manufactured at the CERCA Research and Innovation Lab (CRIL). This technological leap advances the development and production of metallic uranium fuel plates for research reactors and irradiation targets for medical isotopes widely used by hospitals for the diagnosis of cancer.
Lionel Gaiffe, senior executive vice president of the Fuel Business Unit at Framatome commented that “Framatome is confident in the future of the 3D printing process. This breakthrough technology – he said – demonstrates the technical and economic value and complements our production processes, which greatly supports the supply to both our research reactor’s and medical sources’ customers.”
It is our ambition to make CERCA the benchmark for prototype development and research, and development work related to metallic uranium fuels and irradiation targets for medical use,” Gaiffe concluded.
The uranium-molybdenum and uranium-silicon objects were 3D printed, layer by layer, using laser beam melting (laser PBF) equipment. This equipment is nuclear compliant and operates in a glove box under an inert argon gas atmosphere. The manufacturing project was developed by Framatome R&D experts working in close collaboration with the University of Technology of Belfort Montbéliard.
Framatome will continue to advance 3D printing technology for the production of irradiation targets and other components such as fuel plates for research reactors. Research efforts at CRIL can also be applied to prototyping or to small series production of innovative fuels for fourth-generation advanced reactors.