Metal Sealing Solutions for Nuclear Power Stations
How Metal Seals React In Reactors
By Dimitri Van Den Broeck (October 2021)
Confidence is key in the nuclear power industry. Successful plant operations demand precision solutions that perform reliably and safely throughout the nuclear life cycle, supporting long-serving sub-systems from enrichment centrifuges to decommissioning components. The reliability of such solutions directly underpins the efficiency of nuclear fission activities, and can play a significant role in reducing occupational radiation exposure plus the magnitude of residual radioactive sources in protective storage modes.
At Omniseal Solutions, we engineer and manufacture a range of high-performance, metal face seals, metal axial seals and metal special design solutions valued for their ability to handle extremely high temperature and pressurized environments. These metal-to-metal sealing solutions can be tailor made to a customer’s strict specifications, guaranteeing absolute confidence in their critical applications. Due to the collaborative spirit of our partnerships over several decades, our metal sealing solutions are trusted by nuclear engineers across the world, and are ideal for existing plants and next-generation fission reactors to survive extreme heat and nuclear radiation.
This technical article will explore how our range of metal sealing solutions can be deployed throughout the nuclear life cycle and its many core systems, but let us first begin with outlining some of the current challenges in the nuclear industry.
Addressing Key Challenges in the Nuclear Industry
Civil nuclear infrastructures represent the world’s second largest source of low-carbon energy, and around 10% of all electricity produced globally. Energy demands worldwide are growing exponentially, with a predicted rise in demand of almost 50% within the next ten years. Although nuclear fission is an extremely valuable source of energy, several objectives and key results must be addressed before large-scale plant construction can resume in earnest, namely: economic viability, operating safety; resource utilization; and waste management efficiency.
Metal sealing solutions can demonstrably improve critical performance parameters in both existing and next-generation nuclear fission reactions – so-called Generation IV reactors. They can be used at multiple touchpoints in the nuclear workflow.
Metal Seals for Nuclear Applications
A majority of the world’s nuclear power plants use Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs), which is a type of light-water nuclear reactor. It is not surprising that PWRs need multiple equipment such as valves, fittings, piping and exchanger systems, primary pumps, control rods, and large enclosure vessels. You may not realize that our nuclear metal seals are used in all of these applications due to their challenging conditions. They are able to withstand extreme temperatures – in excess of 1,100°C (2,000°F), and are designed to operate efficiently across a wide temperature range from either set point. The seals are also compatible with both corrosive and radioactive solutions and are completely non-permeable.
The following are some of our main metal sealing solutions in nuclear applications:
Other Critical Systems That Use Metal Seals
Our Omniseal® O-Rings and Omniseal® Spring-Energized C-Seals are not only used in PWRs (larger size reactors) but also Small Modular reactors (SMRs) that are generally more economically, using 300 MWe equivalent or less. We also offer special design seals in terms of size and shape to fit the environment and retaining requirements.
In connection with supporting nuclear applications, our metal seals are also used in turbines for power generation. Nuclear power plants use nuclear reactions as a source of heat to drive steam turbines and generate electricity. These self-contained systems are structurally separated for safety reasons. The steam generator and turbine must subsequently be sealed reliably using materials that experience negligible separation/lift-off due to thermal expansion. It is possible to use metal seals that can flexibly adjust in response to dynamics like this, while maintaining the same level of leakage. Typically, though, this requires a custom shape, size and/or orientation.
Looking for Metal Seals?
Omniseal Solutions benefits from a global network of expertise and service, so if you are looking for metal sealing solutions for some other point in the nuclear workflow, why not contact one of our nuclear technical experts today?