Current nuclear reactors have 40-60 year operating lives but new nickel alloy could make 120 year reactor vessel

A new ‘ultra pure’ nickel alloy has been used to create a reactor vessel, which Rosatom says could potentially last 120 years.

Reactors that could last 120 years would have better economics than reactors with shorter lives.
Also, a reactor vessel that lasted 120 years could enable the economics for retrofitting existing powerplants for long life retrofit.

In a nuclear power plant the reactor pressure vessel contains the reactor core itself, demanding the highest resilience to temperature, pressure and radiation, while the component sits low in the reinforced centre of the concrete reactor building and is one of the only major components that cannot be replaced.

Russian state nuclear company Rosatom says it has developed a new ‘extra strong’ reactor pressure vessel for its forthcoming VVER-TOI pressurized water reactors. It could give that design a lifespan of 120 years, compared to the 100 years offered by Rosatom’s current VVER-1200 as built at Novovoronezh and Leningrad Phase II.

Around the world a range of advanced reactor designs offer 60 year lives as standard, with this commonly expected to be extendable to 80 or 100 years. This represents a substantial improvement on the benchmark of 50-60 years for current reactors, which were usually licensed for an arbitrary 30 or 40 years when they were constructed in the second wave of nuclear build.

The first of the new parts was recently cast from a 450-tonne ingot and shaped into a weld-less shell 6 metres long and 4.5 metres in diameter, which “proves that OMZ SpetStal, supported by the Central Research Institute for Machine Building Technology, is now able to produce reactor shells of required dimensions and properties,” according to Alexander Romashkin, acting deputy director of metallurgy associated with the Institute.