Nuclear energy is responsible for 11% of the world’s electricity, and is the second-largest source of low-carbon energy worldwide. The efficiency, operation and safety of these plants is dependent upon the quality of the components they are comprised of, and often it is the smallest components of nuclear power plants that get overlooked.
During the Fukushima disaster in 2011, hatches, seals, hydrogen sensors and electrical penetrations all failed because they were not designed to withstand a severe accident. According to a report by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the failure of these components “played a role in the rapid degradation of the plant infrastructure.” During severe events, pressure and temperature can exceed normal ranges by as much as 300%. Therefore components of nuclear power plants must be built with strength, reliability and maintenance in mind.
The components of nuclear power plants are subjected to a variety of harsh environments. Depending on their use and location, these components must be able to withstand high temperatures and pressures as well as prolonged steam, chemical, and radiation exposure. Specialty plastics can meet these requirements and bring added benefits such as wear resistance and the ability to hold tight tolerances.
One of these specialty plastics is PEEK, a remarkable polymer that combines the highest tensile and flexural strength of any high-performance polymer with an extremely high temperature resistance. The melting point of PEEK is over 700ºF and it can operate in 500º-degree temperatures without deforming. The hardness of PEEK allows it to run in high-load-high-temperature environments without loss of dimensional properties. PEEK also has very low moisture absorption, making it perfect for steam environments. Due to its outstanding characteristics, PEEK is used in the self-actuated abeyance seal system that manages potential reactor coolant leaks during an emergency shutdown.
PCTFE is another popular choice for components of nuclear reactor plants. This polymer remains stable within a wide thermal range and can serve up to 380º. It has high compressive strength, low deformation under load, excellent chemical resistance, near zero moisture absorption, and is non-flammable. It has excellent radiation resistance and is often used for components that undergo high nuclear radiation exposure.
Advanced engineering plastics can be used in numerous components of nuclear power plants, including:
The experts at Reading Plastic can produce high-quality, durable nuclear power plant components that will increase efficiency, reduce downtimes, and improve safety. Request a free quote or call us at (610) 926-3245 to start the conversation about the parts or components you have in mind.