Following a period post-Fukushima when several countries carried out reassessments and national safety reviews, output has increased and delayed projects are being resumed. Research is flourishing and many technologies are being developed to make nuclear power safer. This is good news for suppliers of special materials and equipment. The opportunities to suppliers offered by the nuclear power industry are three-fold: new reactor construction, decommissioning of old reactors and refurbishment or life extension of aging reactors.
According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), 266 new reactors are envisaged to come on line before 2030. Over half of this new growth will be in Asia, especially China. Not only this the world’s fastest-growing region, but it is also where over half the world’s population is packed into a remarkably small space. Although the USA is the nation with the largest civil nuclear capacity, the WNA believes Europe and CIS hold out greater growth potential. Opportunities for decommissioning are especially great in Germany, Japan, the USA and the UK (where 15 out of 16 operating reactors face the chop before 2023).
According to the WNA (April 2015 figures), 437 reactors are currently in operation, 65 are under construction, 165 are on order or planned, and a further 316 are being proposed. With 26 reactors in operation and 23 under construction, China will double its capacity in a very short time. After that, 45 more are planned or on order, with 127 more proposed. The largest site is the power plant at Tianwan, where the two units currently operating will eventually be expanded to eight.
Stainless steel is used extensively in fissile and fusion reactors, in reprocessing, decommissioning and waste storage. The most common grades used are austenitics such as 304, 309 and 316. To make them impermeable to radiation, certain elements, such as cobalt, are limited, and boron is added to provide shielding. For more aggressive applications such as seawater cooling condensers, grades such as 254 SMO®, 4529, 4565 and 654 SMO® are used.
For more information read the full article, written by Stainless Steel World’s regular correspondent James Chater.
Photo copyright: Areva/Alexandra Quatrain