Nuclear power plants generate a significant part of the world’s electrical power consumption. However, many plants are nearing the end of their designed lifetime, and to extend the lifetime it is important to verify that every component can withstand the added service time. This includes polymeric materials, which become brittle with time. By predicting their lifetime and monitoring their condition, unnecessary downtime of the plant can be avoided, and secure operation can be ensured. The lifetime can be predicted by extrapolating results from accelerated ageing to service conditions, or by simulation of the degradation process.
In this study, lifetime predictions through extrapolation were performed on samples of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) core insulation and an acrylonitrile butadiene rubber (NBR) membrane, which were thermally aged in air. The lifetime of the PVC cable was predicted using Arrhenius extrapolation, and using a method based on Langmuir, Clausius-Clapeyron, and Kirchhoff’s equations.
The lifetime of the NBR membrane was predicted using extrapolation in the temperature domain using an Arrhenius approach coupled with an extrapolation in pressure-domain, yielding realistic lifetimes.
Two cable insulations, one made from crosslinked polyethylene (XLPE) and the other from ethylene propylene rubber (EPR) were aged under the simultaneous effect of elevated temperature and γ-radiation investigated using several condition monitoring techniques. In particular, two non-destructive techniques, dielectric spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance, showed promising results be developed and used in situ.
Finally, a computer model simulating the diffusion and consumption of oxygen in XLPE was developed, based on assumptions that diffusion, consumption and solubility were dependent on the total degree of oxidation. The model showed promise for further development.
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. , 75 p.