Showing, not telling, students what we do at Framatome (formerly AREVA NP)

The hardest question for any Framatome (formerly AREVA NP) employee may be “What does Framatome do?”

Whether in a social setting or at an outreach event, the question inevitably comes up. It’s hard to explain the full scope of what we do; we manufacture nuclear fuel, provide engineering services, inspect and maintain operating reactors, and so much more.

Most people will accept simple answers like “we make nuclear fuel” or “we service nuclear power plants.” However, that answer doesn’t cut it when talking to students in the community, especially when you have just 15 minutes to explain not only what you do but what nuclear energy is. The typical response is usually followed by puzzled looks and affirming nods of the head without any real understanding.

To help local students and community members better understand what Framatome does at its Richland, Wash., fuel manufacturing facility, the Richland North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) chapter developed a “Build a Bundle” activity. Students get to try their hand at manufacturing a nuclear fuel assembly and gain a better understanding of nuclear fuel and fuel products.

”One common complaint we have when high school students visit the Richland site is that the tour is not hands-on. What better way to solve this problem than letting the kids actually build a fuel assembly themselves?” said Chad King, Richland NAYGN chair. “This is also a great tool for outreach activities to engage students and let them learn about the manufacturing process.”

Using a 3D printer, the team developed a 2 1/2-foot tall fuel assembly comprised of 43 clear rods filled with color-coded 3D pellets to represent different enrichment types. The micro-scale fuel assembly is equipped with typical fuel assembly components – a water channel, spacer, end caps and springs. When the assembly is complete and all of the end caps have been inserted, the assembly lights up, telling students the assembly was successfully completed.

The activity takes students through the manufacturing process from pellet production to final assembly and inspection. Using coffee creamer dyed with cake decorating powder, students press pellets using a hand press. Once the pellets are pressed, the students are then challenged to inspect the pellets, remove any that don’t meet quality standards, and insert them into the rods in the correct arrangement.

The students must then load the completed rods into the lower tie-plate and insert the end cap. A group of students visually inspects the rods to ensure they have the correct enrichment (pellet colors) in the rods. If inspection is “successful,” they can place the upper-tie plate over the rods, completing the fuel assembly.

“The Build a Bundle activity speaks to the innovation and attention to detail of our young engineers. They saw a need and found a creative way to meet it. And they’re committed to helping the next generation understand nuclear energy in a way that engages them. I’m very proud of the Richland NAYGN chapter and the time and effort they put into creating this activity,” said Tony Robinson, Senior Vice President, Customer Accounts & Government Affairs and executive sponsor for Framatome’s NAYGN organizations.

Now when students ask what we do as Framatome employees, we have an impactful tool thanks to the innovation and efforts of the Richland NAYGN team. With the Build a Bundle activity, we can take show and tell to the next level!