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Safe and sustainable nuclear power stations

Detecting cracks in nuclear plants prevents national disaster

The need

An unplanned outage or a failure to detect faults could lead to a national disaster and represent significant financial losses. including the fall in profits.  A proactive strategy was needed for managing ageing plants, extending their operating lifetime and significantly reducing the potential for unscheduled outages through targeted maintenance and repair. 

The closure of Haysham and Hartlepool power plants in July 2014 and the unplanned short-term outage for example had caused EDF a significant financial loss of approximately €180m – an 8.5% fall in profit before taxes from the previous year. It also reflects the 4.2TWh decline (7%) in nuclear output. 

Given that EDF provides 25% of the total nuclear generating capacity of the UK, an unplanned outage or a failure to detect faults could have led to a national disaster.

The solution

High-temperature transducers (HT transducers) developed by Professor Gan and Professor Balachandran were used to detect a fully penetrating crack (475mm, approximately 25% of the circumference) in a boiler at Heysham 1 nuclear plant operated by EDF Energy.

The outcome

  • Plants were able to resume their full operation quickly, within 5 to 6 months, because EDF installed the HT transducers on the boiler spines in 8 systems in each of the 4 stations (in total 32 systems)
  • HT transducers enabled early detection of aging pipes through continuous monitoring
  • Both nuclear plants, originally scheduled to close in 2019, will continue to operate for another 5 years, until 2024, contributing to sustaining the nuclear energy supply in the UK

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Case study last modified 20/10/2022

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