Managing Material Degradation in Nuclear Power Plants

Experts from 29 Member States attended the 9th Technical Meeting on Material Degradation
(Photo: Kang/IAEA)

18 November 2013 | The demanding environments of an operating nuclear reactor may impact the ability of a broad range of materials to perform their intended function over extended service periods. Identifying materials and components where degradation may occur is an important aspect of safe and secure operation of a nuclear power plant.

“The global average operating time of a nuclear power plant is reached at 28 years,” said Ki-Sig Kang, Technical Head for Plant Life Management and Long Term Operation in the IAEA Nuclear Power Engineering Section. “However, many nuclear power plants would be able to operate safely beyond their initial design life”.

To achieve this, each utility has to demonstrate that high levels of safety and security will be upheld for the extended service period by applying advanced ageing management techniques. Thus it is essential to understand the mechanisms of radiation damage to the system structure and components (SSCs) and possible mitigation approaches.

These may include upgrading equipment and systems, monitoring, testing, incorporating experience feedback, as well as enhancing accident management procedures and human performance in light of the lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

To address these issues, the IAEA has been convening technical meetings on material degradation for over 20 years. The 9th such meeting took place from 5-8 November 2013 in Vienna. Over 80 experts from 29 Member States and the EC’s Joint Research Centre came together to discuss current issues and future challenges of material degradation of system components of nuclear power plants.

The meeting provided participants with information on the degradation of ferritic and stainless steels in structures, systems and components. It also covered material degradation in light water and heavy water cooled reactors. “The presentations by international experts, and intensive discussions among all participants have helped us to identify current gaps and priorities for future R&D work on material degradation and ageing management techniques”, said Mr Kang.

The technical meeting was jointly organized by the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy and the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications. More information and presentations are available on the IAEA website.