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Update on the nuclear industry

4th March 2021   |   General, News

Here is the Special Piping Materials most recent update on the nuclear industry.

Update on the nuclear industry

The nuclear industry has always been a fascinating one, with a rich and vibrant history. Here at Special Piping Materials, we have been supplying the industry with high quality pipes, fittings and flanges for many years and we have become experts in the ins and outs of what drives the market.

The hostile conditions that can be found within nuclear power plants necessitate the need for high performing and specially manufactured equipment. It is in this scenario that high quality stainless steel – like the type that Special Piping Materials supplies – is very useful. As one example, stainless steel pipes are able to carry steam at high pressures and high temperatures thus making the actions of the electricity producing turbines possible.

Read on for our update on the nuclear industry.

 

History of the nuclear industry

If we look back at the industry’s history, nuclear energy first came to being in the 1940s but the initial research, fuelled by the second world war, was focused om producing bombs. In the 1950s, research turned a corner and the focus turned to more peaceful uses of nuclear fission, namely using it for power generation.

  •  – The first commercial nuclear power stations were opened in the 1950s.
  •  – Nuclear is currently the world’s second largest source of low-carbon power (29% of the total in 2018).
  •  – Over 50 countries utilise nuclear energy in about 220 research reactors.
  •  – Around 10% of the world’s electricity is generated by about 440 nuclear power reactors.
  •  – About 50 more reactors are currently under construction, equivalent to approximately 15% of existing capacity.

 

Covid-19 and the nuclear industry

 Any decent update on the nuclear industry would be remiss if it didn’t mention the recent impact of Covid-19.

During the pandemic, the critical focus for energy suppliers has been to maintain reliable electricity supplies and ‘keep the lights’ on. Given that nuclear energy supplies about 10% of electricity worldwide and contributes to electricity generation in over 30 countries, the industry is a pretty significant part of this.

Interestingly, in many companies, people who work in nuclear have been named as ‘key workers’ who are essential in ensuring that their country’s vital infrastructure remains intact.

Here are some interesting facts and figures when it comes to the nuclear industry and Covid:

  •  – According to reports from operators and regulators received through the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) Covid-19 Operational Experience Network (OPEX) and International Reporting System for Operating Experience (IRS), there has been no enforced shutdown of a nuclear power reactor around the world due to the effects of Covid-19 on the workforce or supply chains.
  •  – Again, according to the IAEA, operators and regulators in the global industry have continued to ensure safety and security at their plants.
  •  – Reactor operators have taken steps to protect their workforce and have implemented business continuity plans to ensure the continuing function of key business activities where appropriate.
  •  – Operations were temporarily halted at some facilities, where necessary or deemed appropriate, to prevent the spread of the virus and protect workers.
  •  – Nuclear technologies are also being used to detect and fight the virus.

 

News from the nuclear industry

To give our readers a more informed update on the nuclear industry, we have gathered some of the most recent news stories to be announced in the sector:

 

  •  – Robust job numbers in the UK: In September 2020, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) published robust jobs numbers, showing that the number of people employed in the industry in the UK has remained steady despite the Covid pandemic. According to their annual Jobs Maps, ‘59,584 people are employed in the civil nuclear sector across the UK, a slight increase on 2019.’ Further to this, every aspect of the industry, including generation, new build, decommissioning and research and development have been able to sustain operations over the past 12 months.

 

  •  – New appointments in the US: During the initial period of his presidency, Joe Biden named two Democrats to lead energy-related commissions that oversee nuclear power, natural gas and other energy infrastructure. Christopher Hanson is the new chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while Rich Glick has been named as the leader of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, including in medicine, while FERC regulates interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil.

 

  •  – Nuclear financing initiative launched: The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) together with Poland’s Ministry of Climate and Environment and the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) has launched an initiative collaborate on issues of common interest related to innovative nuclear financing. It began with a technical workshop on 14-15 January, which brought together experts from across the industry.

 

  •  – Nuclear energy named as being essential for decarbonisation targets set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement: Kirsty Gogan, managing partner of research and consultancy firm Lucid Catalyst has stated that “Large-scale, low-cost hydrogen is the key ingredient that can enable the production of clean substitute fuels that can enable decarbonisation of those really tough-to-abate sectors like aviation, shipping, cement production, and industry.” It is a well-accepted fact that the attributes of nuclear power – namely its production of low-cost power and heat combined with high-capacity factors and a small land use footprint – mean that it is very well suited to enable the highly efficient and low-cost production of hydrogen.

 

  •  – Nuclear power needed for UK energy security: According to a new report from the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), the UK government must invest in the nuclear industry if the country is to meet an expected doubling of electricity demand by 2050 while meeting its Net Zero ambitions. In its report – Bridging the gap: The case for new nuclear investment– CPS says ‘the construction of at least one additional nuclear power plant would provide a significant boost to the UK’s energy security while its older plants are decommissioned over the coming years.’ It also suggests that a new nuclear power plant would complement Britain’s booming renewables portfolio and help to manage periods of variability.

 

  •  – Negotiations begin on Sizewell C project in Suffolk: The UK government is entering negotiations with integrated energy company EDF to discuss the construction of a £20bn nuclear power plant in Suffolk. It is thought that the project has the potential to create thousands of new jobs and boost nuclear supply chains up and down the country.

 

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