Neutron noise monitoring during plant operation expedites flexure replacement at Salem-1

October 15, 2021, 3:26PMNuclear NewsMatt Palamara, Ali Fakhar, Stephen Smith, Patrick Fabian, Nathan Lang, and George Holoman
Neutron noise monitoring allowed engineers to observe and interpret vibration characteristics captured by neutron flux detectors. (Photo: PSEG/Westinghouse)

The nuclear industry has historically relied on intermittent ultrasonic test and visual inspections of pressurized water reactor components to identify and manage degradation. While this reactive approach has proven to be effective, imagine a scenario in which the degradation could propagate throughout the reactor internals, making a more proactive measure necessary to avoid a major enterprise risk to the plant. Could a utility identify the onset of degradation within the reactor internals during plant operation? If so, could a repair be developed prior to the next refueling outage to prevent additional, cascading degradation? That is exactly the situation that Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) and Westinghouse engineers were able to navigate over the course of the 2019–2020 operating cycle at Salem Unit 1, resulting in a tremendous success for the plant and a historic landmark in the nuclear industry, while earning the team a 2021 Nuclear Energy Institute Top Innovative Practice (TIP) award.

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