4th EDF Energy Nuclear Graphite Conference: The Engineering Challenges

20 August 2014

This meeting, held at the National College for Teaching and Leadership in Nottingham, and attended by 104 delegates, was the latest in a series of meetings at which EDF Energy (Nuclear Generation) Ltd invites presentation and discussion of work conducted both by its own staff and by numerous contracting and research organisations to support the continued safe operation and life extension of the 14 advances gas-cooled reactors in the UK. These reactors depend upon high-purity Gilsonite-based nuclear graphites which are subject to physical damage of their atomic structure by collisions between fast neutrons and the carbon atoms (as part of the 'moderation' of those neutrons to facilitate the fission chain process) and to chemical attack (radiation-induced oxidation in the carbon-dioxide reactor coolant).

On this occasion, the focus was on larger-scale components and their behaviour, addressed both by direct experiments and by monitoring activities and separately by mathematical and statistical modelling to extend the range over which predicted behaviour can be considered adequate to support further reactor operation. In addition, four discussion sessions were held to address specific issues and the way in which EDF is addressing them, in order to give additional assurance to regulators about the quality of the safety cases which are eventually produced. These covered (i) 'Aligning the Modelling and Statistics with the Science' (led by Prof Stephen McArthur of The University of Strathclyde); (ii) 'Microstructural Modelling and Examination' (led by Prof Peter Flewitt of The University of Bristol); (iii) 'Relating Experiments to Core Modelling' (led by Prof Colin Taylor of The University of Bristol) and (iv) 'The Best Use of Reactor Sampling and Inspection' (led by Dr Jim Reed of EDF Energy). Discussion was lively and, for some groups, went on late into the evening. Full proceedings will be published in due course.

Time was found for a small group to tour the Industrial Caves under the centre of Nottingham and to enjoy a beer in the famous 'Trip to Jerusalem' Inn, which is partly inside a cave in the Castle Rock. The conference was voted a great success, and the venue is highly recommended as a location with excellent on-site accommodation and amazing food at a surprising cheap rate!

The conference was sponsored by EDF Energy, The National Nuclear Laboratory, Amec, Atkins, the Frazer-Nash Consultancy and NRG Petten, The Netherlands.

Tony Wickham,
Treasurer, British Carbon Group

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