I began auditing fuel fabrication processes in 1983. I was trained on quality assurance audit techniques, but there were essentially no sources available to learn the intricacies of fuel fabrication. Therefore, I entered the school of ‘learning by experience’ and we all know that ‘experience’ is something you acquire after you need it! Fortunately, I did have a good mentor. It is now 2008. I have acquired twenty-five years of experience and I am now the mentor for our junior engineers. Fortunately for them, we have a great resource available in the Fuel Fabrication Process Handbook.
This handbook contains the what, why and how to perform oversight of fuel fabrication processes. It reviews the processing of raw uranium and zirconium, fabrication of components and the production of the completed fuel assembly. The handbook also contains a description of fuel assembly types, qualification programs and quality assurance systems. For example, the pellet fabrication section discusses the preparation of the uranium dioxide powder, and the pressing, sintering, grinding and inspection of the pellet. Each section discusses the process parameters that influence the characteristics and quality of the final product. A recommendation of priority items to be audited is provided at the conclusion of the section.
The authors of this handbook have condensed decades of experience into a single volume. I make sure that any new engineer becomes familiar with the handbook before attempting to audit a fuel fabrication process. Further, I never leave home without it when I am performing an audit. It has become an invaluable reference to ensure that I am auditing the important characteristics of fuel fabrication.