Ready for the Future of Nuclear
Nuclear energy is the second largest source of low carbon electricity in the world behind hydropower, according to the U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy. It is a zero-emission clean energy source that protects air quality, requires a small land footprint to operate, and produces minimal waste. In fact, a 1,000 MW nuclear facility in the United States needs about one square mile to operate compared to a 1,000 MW wind farm, which would require about 360 acres.
Between the clean energy benefits, a zero-emission nuclear power production credit included in the Inflation Reduction Act, and a growing acceptance among the American public to the idea of nuclear power, it is no surprise that nuclear power is getting a fresh look.
To bring more nuclear-generated electric power online in less time throughout the country, the industry is developing Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). SMRs are small-scale versions of large nuclear power plants and are a very recent development in nuclear power. They have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) and are one-third the size of traditional nuclear power reactors. The U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy regards SMRs as key to clean, safe, and affordable nuclear power that can provide power generation, process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses.
NuScale Power Reactors. ©NuScale Power, LLC, All Rights Reserved
SMRs are currently under development worldwide, offering a much shorter commissioning time and more cost-effective operation. With their smaller footprint, SMRs promise to bring electric power to small cities and metropolises.
Out at sea, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and submarines are powered by onboard nuclear reactors that create high-pressured steam to turn the propellers and provide electricity. The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has no plans to slow down as teams of military and civilian personnel manage the design, build, operation, and maintenance programs to ensure safe, reliable, and long-lived nuclear propulsion plants.
Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. www.energy.gov/nnsa/powering-navy
For over 70 years, Stainless Foundry & Engineering (SF&E) has applied its expertise to produce components that keep nuclear power plants operating and U.S. Navy vessels sailing. We specialize in casting pump and valve parts for the nuclear power plant itself as well as in equipment used in and around the plant.
What sets nuclear components apart from ASME and ASTM commercial castings is that they require comprehensive quality procedures, work instructions, and special personnel qualifications and certifications. These programs require many hours of creation and maintenance.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses new commercial nuclear reactors to originally operate for 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Licenses can be extended for an additional 20 years if the licensee completes a heavy inspection and evaluation to determine the state of pumps, impellers, piping and valves. This is where the SF&E team can step in to help.
“We produce components for land-based reactors, castings for naval nuclear propulsion, as well as for the small modular reactors,” said Mike Porfilio, Director of Quality and Technical Services for SF&E. “We have also produced safety-related parts that are in compliance with the requirements of Title 10 CFR Part 21. This is a non-conforming material alert system which SF&E has in force for all safety-related and nuclear jobs being processed.”
SF&E has progressed in handling nuclear system components, ranging from pump parts – including a 7,000 lb pour weight 12-stage split case pump, to a 5,500-pound CA6NM Class 1 martensitic stainless steel impeller. For 30 years, the foundry only produced domestic Class 2 and 3 components. Around 1992, we expanded into Class 1 casting production for the domestic market and made castings destined for France and South Korea, following relevant sections of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code (BVPC) and general requirements of ISO-9001. Class 1 castings require different non-destructive testing (NDT), such as radiography, and have different welding classifications of defects.
Impeller Split Case Pump
In the past five years, SF&E has upped its game throughout its operations to serve a higher level of nuclear requirements as the nuclear power industry continues to grow:
- Monitoring Quality During the Pour. “During the pour, we control carbon equivalents and ferrite percentages as required,” says Porfilio. “Often, we add specific elements like cobalt to ensure radiation control properties. Cobalt tends to absorb radiation. In addition, the technicians pour test blocks for measuring mechanical properties and for process and compliance control.”
For the U.S. Navy Nuclear Products, all metal parts on an aircraft carrier or submarine are susceptible to corrosive salty water and air. For these applications, SF&E works with CRES high-strength corrosion-resistant alloys.
- Meeting ASME and Other Requirements
- Welding – all SF&E producers and personnel qualifications comply to all aspects of ASME BPVC and for the US Navy, the NAVSEA S9074-GIB-101/248 Welding program.
- Heat Treatment – SF&E follows the strict requirements of many different ASTM and ASME material specifications, particularly when it comes to Section III, Division 1 regarding BPVC.
- A Tough and Comprehensive QA Department. Nuclear power demands more audits, procedures, and attention to detail – and for good reason. SF&E regularly trains engineers, metallurgists, quality personnel and specific key production personnel to ensure continued compliance with exacting specifications. We have over 10 staff members certified for visual inspection, five of which deal with nuclear work.
We continue to improve our processes and stretch our nuclear capabilities with the help of in-house training and trusted third party partnerships. If you are looking for a foundry partner that has produced nuclear castings for almost as long as the nuclear industry has been operating, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.