Fuel inspections: present and future needs

Inspections performed during the nuclear fuel cycle are an essential means to ensure the correct behaviour of the fuel assemblies when they are operating in-core and then managed as a high activity radioactive waste.

Besides the inspections performed during the fabrication of the fuel assembly, ENUSA establishes and carries out inspection campaigns at nuclear power plants, using non-destructive testing. The main objectives consist in monitoring the fuel performance when operating and characterizing the fuel assemblies after irradiation.

According to the cycle phase the inspection is carried out, the inspection methods are different. Besides supplying information on the fuel assembly behaviour and performance, they also identify areas where more knowledge is needed. In this last case, ENUSA develops R&D&I programs that include hot cell inspections and destructive testing, in order to cover the lack of data in the identified areas.

Addressing the actual fuel inspection needs of the national and international PWR and BWR nuclear power plants, this article describes the main fuel inspection technics employed to characterize the fuel assemblies. It concludes identifying the expected future needs of the nuclear industry.

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