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Service Limits of a Nuclear Reactor

  1. Mar 5, 2017 #1
    Nuclear reactors are licensed with a fixed service life in all countries. This is despite the fact that reactors have widely varying ages (some plants have taken decades to complete), varying use cycles (not all plants run at 90%+ capacity factor, some are even mothballed), and undergo power downrates/uprates. There are some features that represent a hard limit, but apart from situations as with the graphite blocks in Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors most system critical components can either be replaced or see decades of use.

    Given this, why do nuclear reactors have a time based service limit instead of one based on their real use, as with most other machinery? What are the service limits of a nuclear reactor from an engineering perspective?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2017 #2
    License time is based on non service life things. In the Us, 40 years was based on anti trust concerns.

    Actual service life is based on a combination of stress analysis/cumulative usage factor, cycles accumulated, and radiation embrittlement measured in effective full power years.

    Because the first license only lasts 40 years, the vendors only had to demonstrate that service limits would not be exceeded during 40 years. So they made some assumptions on capacity factor and converted everything into effective full power years for embrittlement, and cycles for thermal effects. Typically you have 32 EFPY for a first license of a gen 2 reactor in the us, and something like 120 Scrams along with a number of upset and emergency cycles. Again these aren't actual limits, this was just a "demonstration" that he reactor will not exceed service limits during its license time.

    When you either start to approach an actual service/stress limit, or when you go for relicensing, you now need to start calculating actual limits and determining your cumulative usage for the most limiting components.

    Most things can be replaced. The stuff that is limiting tends to be the neutron embrittlement of a reactor beltline or flaw propagation on major nozzles and welds.
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