A significant milestone for additive manufacturing has been achieved in the nuclear industry: a first-of-its-kind 3D printed component has successfully been installed into a commercial nuclear reactor. The part, a 3D printed thimble plugging device, was installed by nuclear energy company Westinghouse Electric Company at Exelon’s Byron Unit 1 nuclear plant during its spring refueling outage.
The adoption of additive manufacturing in the nuclear sector has been somewhat slower than in other industries, but there have been some notable moments in recent years. In 2017, for instance, Siemens became the first company to complete the commercial installation of a 3D printed part in a nuclear power plant. And earlier this year, Swedish 3D printing companies Additive Composite and Add North 3D released a new boron carbide composite filament suitable for radiation shielding applications in the nuclear industry.
Now, Westinghouse has become the latest company to advance AM in the nuclear segment. According to the company, 3D printing has enabled it to streamline the production of certain low-volume components. Today, the company operates powder bed fusion metal AM, as well as Hot wire laser welding (HWLW), as part of its advanced manufacturing offering.
“Westinghouse continues to lead the way with development of the most advanced technologies to help the world meet growing electricity demand with safe, clean and reliable energy,” commented Ken Canavan, CTO of Westinghouse. “Our additive manufacturing program offers customers enhanced component designs that help increase performance and reduce costs, as well as provide access to components that may not be available using traditional manufacturing methods.”
“Additive manufacturing is an exciting new solution for the nuclear industry,” added Ken Petersen, Vice President of Nuclear Fuels at Chicago-based energy company Exelon Generation. “The simplified approach helps meet the industry’s need for a wide variety of low-volume, highly critical plant components. We are proud to have Westinghouse as a partner on this industry milestone and to help further demonstrate the viability of this technology.”
Based in the state of Pennsylvania, Westinghouse Electric Company is a global leading supplier of nuclear technology. Recently, the company expanded its business with the acquisition of Rolls-Royce’s Civil Nuclear Systems and Services business in North America and in select sites in Europe.