Increasingly dependable and emitting few greenhouse gases, the U.S. fleet of nuclear power plants will likely run for another 50 or even 70 years before it is retired -- long past the 40-year life span planned decades ago -- according to industry executives, regulators and scientists.
With nuclear providing always-on electricity that will become more cost-effective if a price is placed on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, utilities have found it is now viable to replace turbines or lids that have been worn down by radiation exposure or wear. Many engineers are convinced that nearly any plant parts, most of which were not designed to be replaced, can be swapped out.
"We think we can replace almost every component in a nuclear power plant," said Jan van der Lee, director of the Materials Ageing Institute (MAI), a nuclear research facility inaugurated this week in France and run by the state-owned nuclear giant EDF.
"We don't want to wait until something breaks," he said. By identifying components that are wearing down and replacing them, he said, suddenly nuclear plants will find that "technically, there is no age limit."
Reactors are getting extensions to 60-70 year plant life.
Half of US reactors have licenses extending to 60 years.
Operating extensions in europe
Heavy Manufacturing Status
The very heavy forging capacity in operation today is in Japan (Japan Steel Works), China (China First Heavy Industries and China Erzhong) and Russia (OMZ Izhora). New capacity is being built by JSW, Shanghai Electric Group (SEC) and subsidiaries in China, and in South Korea (Doosan), France (Le Creusot) and Russia (OMZ Izhora and ZiO-Podolsk). New capacity is planned in UK (Sheffield Forgemasters) and India (Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Heavy Electricals, Bharat Forge Ltd). In China the Harbin Boiler Co. and SEC subsidiary SENPE are increasing capacity.
12+ heavy forging sets per year now
About 40 heavy forgings set per year by end of 2012
Japan Steel Works 14,000 t x 2 600 max
4/yr set now and 12 /yr in 2012
MHI Nil, uses forgings to make RPVs double
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (MHI) will spend JPY 15 billion ($138 million) to double its capacity to make nuclear reactor pressure vessels and other large nuclear components by 2011. However, it does not have its own forging capacity. Also MHI will triple production space and add processing tools at its factory in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture. The company aims to reduce the time to make a reactor vessel from three years to two, and to triple annual sales to 600 billion yen in ten years from 200 billion yen in 2007.
Doosan 13,000 t
17,000 t 540
China CFHI 15,000 t, 12,500 t 580tons max 3/yr now and 5/yr by 2012
Harbin Boiler 8000 t
Shanghai (SEC) 15,000 t? 600 2.5/yr now and 6/yr in 2012
China Erzhong + Dongfang 12,700 t 600 3/yr in 2012
China's heavy manufacturing plants can make about seven sets of pressure vessels and steam generators per year, a doubling from 2007, but this is projected to rise to 20 sets per year by 2015.
India L&T 15,000 t ?
600 (in 2011)
Bharat Forge 14,000 t
Europe Areva, SFARsteel 11,300 t 250
Sheffield 10,000 t 15,000 t 500
Saarschmiede 8670 t
ENSA Nil, uses forgings to make RPVs
USA Lehigh 10,000 t 270
Russia OMZ Izhora 12,000 t 15,000 t 600 2/yr now , 4/yr in 2012
ZiO-Podolsk ?, 4/yr in 2012
Russia's main reactor component supplier is OMZ's Izhorskiye Zavody facility at Izhora which is doubling the production of large forgings so as to be able to manufacture three or four pressure vessels per year from 2011. This represents a RUR 12 billion ($430 million) investment. OMZ is expected to produce the forgings for all new domestic AES-2006 model VVER-1200 nuclear reactors (four per year from 2016), plus exports. At present Izhora can produce the heavy forgings required for Russia's VVER-1000 reactors at the rate of two per year and it is manufacturing components for the first of two Leningrad II VVER-1200 units and for Novovoronezh II, as well as Belene's VVER-1000. These forgings include reactor pressure vessels, steam generator shells, reactor internals, and heavy piping. It shipped steam generator shells to ZiO-Podolsk for finishing.
IEAE - list of the age and power levels of world reactors.
Links to IAEA charts on nuclear reactors
Search the IAEA database of reactors
Operating extensions in Europe