DOE, EPRI researching nuclear plant longevity

ORNL’s Phil Edmondson and James Ferriday from the U.K.’s University of Sheffield use atom probe tomography to investigate the irradiation performance of low-alloy steels used in reactor pressure vessel components.
ORNL’s Phil Edmondson and James Ferriday from the U.K.’s University of Sheffield use atom probe tomography to investigate the irradiation performance of low-alloy steels used in reactor pressure vessel components. | Courtesy of the NEI / ORNL
The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) are studying the aging process in certain reactor parts to understand long-term reactor operations, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) reported Thursday.

Specifically, researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are studying reactor vessels, cabling and concrete structures. They are studying these components because they are costly to replace and their work is centered on the better understanding of how aging technology can effect operations and safety beyond 60 years of operation and to better utilize management and mitigation plans for older nuclear reactors.

In the U.S., nuclear facilities are licensed to operate for 40 years and many have already been awarded 20-year extensions on specific reactors.

“It is important to develop an understanding of any aging that might be expected beyond 60 years and to initiate aging management plans, monitoring strategies and, if needed, mitigation techniques that can be applied safely and cost-effectively,” Tina Taylor, director of strategic programs for EPRI, said.

In order to conduct this research, the team is taking these components from decommissioned reactors, specifically from the Zion Station in Illinois and the Jose Cabera Plant in Spain, which operated for over 20 years and approximately 38 years, respectively.

For research purposes, age acceleration on components must be completed for accurate results. They state that through initial tests there are no specific technical reasons that would prevent a nuclear plant from operating past 60 years as long as it maintained at a high quality.

Organizations in this story

Nuclear Energy Institute 1201 F St NW D.C., DC - 20004

Get notified the next time we write about Nuclear Energy Institute!