US-based Jacobs has been selected to lead an international consortium whose cutting-edge research could lead to extensions in the operational life of nuclear power plants worldwide.
The INCEFA-SCALE programme, which stands for 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 power reactors.
The European Union (EU) is providing most of the funding for the five-year, $8.1 million INCEFA-SCALE programme, which is a continuation of the previous INCEFA-PLUS programme, in which Jacobs has led a 16-member European consortium since 2013.
Although components and materials are extensively tested in laboratories, there are sometimes gaps in understanding the correlation between these tests and performance, which can lead to fatigue assessment parameters being set more conservatively than necessary. The research will fill those gaps by 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 plants when they are still economically viable and safe to operate.
Clive White, international senior vice president, Jacobs Critical Mission Solutions said: "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 will complement component scale tests being carried out in the USA by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in collaboration with INCEFA-SCALE.
Photo: Work on test rig at Jacob's UK nuclear laboratories (Credit: Jacobs)