TeaM Cables is expected to have impacts at several levels:
Contribute to helping NPPs to efficiently respond to the new requirements of the amended Nuclear Safety Directive and thereby reinforcing safety of generation II and III reactors
TeaM Cables will help generation II and III NPP operators to respond to the Nuclear Safety Directive requirements by providing them with a new solution to better estimate the Long Term Operation (LTO) safety of NPP cables under both normal and accidental conditions, thus tackling a major safety concern in NPPs. The methods, models and associated tool developed by TeaM Cables will also allow NPPs to generate the required data needed for safety evaluations and information to the public.
Improve the market profile of EU-based reactor designs and strengthen the competitiveness of the EU nuclear sector
TeaM Cables, coordinated by the number one European NPP operator EDF, has made a conscious choice to optimise industrial impact by focusing on the development of an approach/tool which will serve in particular the European nuclear industry. Solving these issues will contribute to the maintenance and reinforcement of the leadership of EU nuclear industries in the operation of their existing nuclear fleet and also in the design of new reactors, as the findings in TeaM Cables will be useful in future reactor ageing management.
The results of TeaM Cables will also help the NPP cable providers to develop and share multiscale methodologies for polymer ageing studies that could be used in the future for other polymers or even in other sectors of applications where polymers are used (aeronautic, space, railway infrastructure…).
Contribution to sustainable and affordable energy production
According to the International Energy Outlook of the US Energy Information Administration in 2016, from 2012 to 2040, after renewable energy sources, natural gas and nuclear power are the next fastest-growing sources of electricity generation, with an annual increase of nuclear power generation of 2.4%, representing 12% of the global energy production in 2040.
The results from the TeaM Cables project are expected to considerably contribute to the continuous safe operation of the existing fleet of nuclear reactors in Europe to answer to the triple strategic objective as stated above to 1/ ensure the energy production needs, 2/ reduce CO2 emissions to half that of 2005 and 3/ strengthen the nuclear workforce to meet future demands by investing in education and training.
The results from TeaM Cables are expected to have a strong impact on the academic and industrial research communities, not only in the field of NPP cables. Both fundamental and applied scientific questions will be answered in the project:
- Kinetics of antioxidant consumption and synergy between antioxidants,
- Effect of the presence of fillers in the polymer oxidation
- Relation between polymer oxidation and evolution of macroscopic properties of polymers
- Effect of sample thickness on evolution of functional properties of polymers
- Synergetic effect between irradiation and temperature
- Interpretation of terahertz and microwaves measurements in terms of changes in polymer structure
- Mechanical modelling of polymers related to experimentally-measurable parameters accessible through non-destructive or micro-sampling tests
- Influence of material composition on cable ageing (polymers, fillers, additives…)
- Extension of the TeaM Cables approach to other polymer components, such as seals, expansion joints, polymer coatings, pipes and paraseismic support material
Finally, findings on polymers and cables used in NPPs will be extendable to cables used in other sectors, applying the same type of materials, such as the automotive and the aerospace research areas.
Impact on other industry sectors
The TeaM Cables project will generate new information that will be useful not only to the nuclear industry but also for other industry sectors, in particular aerospace and automobile.
The aerospace industry uses cables which are also subject to ageing due to high temperature and irradiation. Very specific electrical and electronical devices (space probes, satellites) used for long term in space have to endure irradiation condition sometimes similar to NPP cable conditions (notably synergistic effect, but without oxidation). TeaM Cables partners have already been in contact with NASA, ESA and AXON who have all expressed their great interest in the results of the project.
In the automobile industry, car manufacturers are using electrical harnesses which also undergo thermal ageing. The results from TeaM Cables will therefore be of interest to this industry. An example of this is the existing collaboration between the TeaM Cables partner ENSAM and several car manufacturers.
Given the relatively low cost of nuclear fuel, improvements in operating efficiency over the last 20 years, and the fact that original investment costs are now substantially depreciated, the great majority of existing nuclear power plants are very competitive suppliers of electricity compared to the costs for the construction of new NPPs. Low fuel costs and moderate operation and maintenance costs mean that nuclear plants have low marginal costs of production, and can thus operate profitably even when electricity prices are low (although constant low prices would not allow the recovery of investment costs).
By helping NPP operators to confirm a safe extension of the lifetime of NPP cables, the TeaM Cables results will thus have a significant economic impact. Better understanding processes involved in cables ageing will also allow operators to predict the lifetime of cables in a more cost-efficient way, as costly onsite tests of cables can be avoided. Moreover, increasing safety of LTO will prevent accidents which are by nature extremely expensive. And as aforementioned, license extension of NPPs by a precise assessment of irradiation and temperature effects on cables appear far less expensive than the replacement of old reactors by new ones.
Socially important impacts
Just after the Fukushima accident, the public perception of nuclear safety declined strongly. Public interest in LTO projects and decisions is high and enabling the public to have access to relevant safety information is an important challenge that is particularly prevalent in the case of LTO. It is thus important that experts in the nuclear research field set up specific measures to inform the public about the research related to the improvement of safety in existing nuclear power plants avoiding technical jargon. Through its dissemination plan and subsequent activities, TeaM Cables will carry out specific measures towards the civil society and its different interest groups.
Contribution to standards
Current international standards of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) dealing with nuclear I&C cable material are elaborated by the following technical/sub committees:
- IEC/TC45 A: Instrumentation, control and electrical systems of nuclear facilities. The technical committee 45 (TC 45) is responsible for the standardisation of nuclear instrumentation that includes relevant terminology and classification, detectors of ionising radiations and systems based on these detectors and the commercial applications of nuclear instrumentation technologies.
- IEC/ SC45A and CENELEC TC45: Instrumentation and Control of nuclear facilities. The sub-committee 45A (SC 45A) is responsible for the standardisation of activities related to electronic and electrical functions and associated systems and equipment used in instrumentation, control and electrical systems of nuclear facilities. These activities include nuclear power plants, the entire nuclear fuel cycle from mining to processing, reprocessing, and interim and final repositories for spent fuel and nuclear waste.
A specific task in the TeaM Cables project will be dedicated to the preparation of proposals for amendments to these standards. Partners in this task will work in close collaboration with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and its European Committee CENELEC, and through the participation of partners in relevant IEC committees.
Improving innovation capacity and integration of knowledge
Through the innovative approach and tools developed and the integration of knowledge carried out in TeaM Cables, the project results will allow companies to increase the reliability of safety measurements in NPPs. Through a proactive management of NPPs cable ageing and LTO, the NPP operators will decrease costs related to cable lifetime prediction. This will in turn strengthen their competitiveness on the global energy market by replying in a cost-effective way to the increasing demand for nuclear power.
Furthermore, NEXANS, the cable provider partner, will increase their knowledge about materials and cables ageing fundamentals in general, and in particular the impact of irradiation and temperature on NPP cables provided by them. This will enable them to develop more innovative cable solutions which they can exploit in the future.