DOE Examines GE Vernova Nuclear’s Fuel Rods for Commercial Operations

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The shipment of fuel rods landed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and completed three full cycles of operation at a U.S. nuclear power plant.

GE Vernova’s high burnup fuel rods were delivered to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory for examination to help provide valuable information about high burnup fuel, which is a goal of the DOE’s Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) program.

The rods, manufactured by GE Vernova’s Nuclear Fuel business, Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF), located in Wilmington, NC, completed three full cycles of operation at a U.S. nuclear power plant.

The post-irradiation examinations performed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory support GNF’s development, engineering, and licensing efforts to ensure the continued safe and reliable performance of fuel under expanded operating conditions.

“This shipment of these rods is another milestone in the drive to develop the next generation of even safer and more reliable fuel,” said Mike Chilton, Executive Vice President, GNF. “We are proud to be part of this collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the DOE to benefit the entire industry.”


Higher burnup fuel enhances nuclear safety by enabling fuel to remain in the reactor core for longer before it is removed for long-term storage. The idea is that fewer bundles will support improved fuel-cycle economics and power uprates.

“This fuel shipment to Oak Ridge National Laboratory is an important step in GNF’s efforts to commercialize their high burnup fuel,” said Frank Goldner, a nuclear engineer within DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. “High burnup fuels are expected to enhance the performance of today’s reactors and will help us on our path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Earlier this year in February 2024, GE Verova’s GNF business received approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to manufacture, ship, and analyze the performance of nuclear fuel enriched with uranium-235 by up to 8 weight percent.

With the NRC’s approval of GNF’s fuel fabrication license amendment, the company’s manufacturing facility in Wilmington, NC is the first commercial location in the United States to obtain a license for fuel fabrication enrichments of up to 8 weight percent. The NRC issued a Certificate of Compliance, which allows GNF to ship nuclear fuel bundles with the company’s RAJ-II shipping container. It also approved licensing topical reports for advanced nuclear methods that allow GNF to analyze fuel with enrichments greater than 5 weight percent.

“These regulatory milestones build on our long history of designing and fabricating fuel for the nuclear industry,” said Mike Chilton, Executive Vice President, GNF. “We will continue to innovate to help our customers run their plants even more efficiently and be ready to support the next generation of reactor technology with reliable, flexible fuel products as the industry progresses to the use of higher enrichments.”

The NRC approvals were made possible due to the work GNF and GE Vernova’s Advanced Research business have conducted for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) program. GNF is developing and deploying fuel technologies with enhanced accident tolerance and operational flexibility, while also allowing sustained economic performance through improved bundle efficiency. Higher enrichment of uranium-based fuels are expected to improve nuclear fuel cycle economics by way of power uprates for current boiling water reactors and advanced/small modular reactors.