Research aims to extend operational life of nuclear plants

Jacobs is to lead an international consortium whose research could extend the operational life of nuclear power plants around the world.

operational life of nuclear plants
Work on a test rig at Jacobs’ UK nuclear laboratories (Image: Jacobs)

The INCEFA-SCALE program (INcreasing safety in nuclear power plants by Covering gaps in Environmental Fatigue Assessment) aims to reduce uncertainties about how critical components will perform when subjected to the harsh conditions inside operational nuclear reactors.

UK project aims to extend life and improve performance of nuclear plants

Components and materials are extensively tested in laboratories but gaps can exist in understanding the correlation between these tests and actual performance, leading to fatigue assessment parameters being set more conservatively than necessary.

According to Jacobs, the research will fill in those gaps by means of extensive data mining in international fatigue databases and detailed examination of test specimens to improve mechanistic understanding. Greater certainty about component performance will avoid unnecessary closures of nuclear power plants when they are still economically viable and safe to operate.

“By successfully leading this research, Jacobs has demonstrated its capability to knit together an international consortium and to bring together the very best, complementary capabilities,” said Jacobs Critical Mission Solutions International Senior Vice President Clive White. “The European Union has sanctioned this follow-on project while the predecessor project is still live, which testifies to the success of the consortium and the relevance of the study topic to nuclear plant safety and lifetime assessments.”

Jacobs, which operates the UK’s largest independent nuclear laboratory complex in Birchwood Park, Warrington, will contribute to multiaxial, thermo-mechanical and complex waveform testing to provide greater insight into the stresses and strains placed on components. This work is expected to complement component scale tests being carried out in the US by the Electric Power Research Institute, in collaboration with INCEFA-SCALE.

The European Union is providing most of the funding for the five-year, $8m INCEFA-SCALE program, which is a continuation of the previous INCEFA-PLUS program.