Nuclear power is a technology which extracts usable energy from atomic nuclei via controlled nuclear reactions – normally atomic fission.
The process takes place in a nuclear-fuelled power plant, where – much like in a fossil-fuelled power plant – water is turned into steam, which drives turbine generators to produce electricity. The difference between the two power plants is the heat source. Nuclear power produces electricity by splitting uranium atoms which generate phenomenal heat. This is called fission. This heat is used to create the steam which powers the generators. There is no combustion in a nuclear reactor, just the constant splitting of atoms which produces manageable heat.
Either a pressurised water reactor or boiling water reactor is used, but regardless which type of reactor is used to generate heat, the conditions under which they do are extremely hostile. This means that the finest Stainless Steel pipes and tubing are required so that they can deal with constantly high pressures and temperatures.
The necessity of Stainless Steel pipes in the Nuclear Industry
Many nuclear power stations are situated on the coast and use sea water for cooling which again calls for special piping resistant to the high corrosiveness of saltwater. Stainless steel pipe and tubes when manufactured to the required standards are more than adequate for the long, harsh duty cycles required when utilised in a reactor environment.
Today, nuclear power is only possible by virtue of the superb qualities of the construction materials available and none are more important than the stainless steel pipes which carry steam at high pressure and high temperatures which make the operation of the electricity producing turbines possible.
There are a number of different types of Stainless Steels, which are characterised according to their crystalline structure. For example, when nickel is added, the austenite structure is stabilised, making steel that is both non-magnetic and less brittle at low temperatures.
Nickel is an extremely adaptable element and has a great range of helpful properties such as heat and corrosion resistance, electrical and magnetic capabilities as well as a low expansion level. As an added benefit, it can also be easily bonded with a number of different alloys.
Nickel’s adaptability and natural properties make it a very useful metal. This has resulted in it being used to make a wide variety of nickel alloys. One of the commercial uses of nickel alloy is in nuclear power systems.
Special Piping Materials and the Nuclear Industry
Of all the nickel alloys out there, Special Piping Materials specifically specialises in two varieties; Inconel Alloy 625, which is made up of a minimum of 58% nickel, and Inconel Alloy 825, which is made up of between 38-46% nickel. Both of these products are known to perform very well in corrosive environments.
Nickel Alloy and Inconel are two of the most robust and enduring materials that is also versatile enough so that it can be used in a wide variety of difficult and sensitive applications.
As an example, Inconel can even be found to be part of the core components of nuclear pressurised water reactors.
Special Piping Materials is able to source any type of product – such as round bar, flanges or even seamless pipe in Inconel Alloy 625 and Inconel Alloy 825.
Whatever piping material is required in the nuclear industry, rest assured that Special Piping Materials has the network to be able to source it. We only work within a very trusted supply chain to ensure the quality of the products we are supplying as we know that their ability to perform is relied upon in extremely intense environments.