Corrosion in nuclear power plants
As demand for cleaner, more sustainable energy sources continues to grow, many parts of the world are shifting to nuclear power. Today, nuclear power is the world’s second fastest growing energy source and consumption is expected to grow by 1.5 percent per year through 2040.
Corrosion mitigation in coolant systems in nuclear power plants
To maintain the safe operation of nuclear power plants, engineers need to monitor corrosion residues in cooling water systems. With the early detection of corrosion in metal alloy components, scientists can prevent plant shutdowns and decrease safety-related incidents.
Unfortunately, the direct detection of these metals isn’t possible due to their low concentrations. Instead, filters are placed in the water-cooling system to collect corrosion residue over time and are then analyzed to identify elements of interest.
Historically, the filters were analyzed using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), a technique that requires immersing the filters into a chemical solution. Not only does this require the use of hazardous materials, but it also takes at least half a day including sample preparation time.
EDXRF analysis of corrosion residues
To bypass sample preparation and complete these analyses faster, many nuclear engineers are turning to energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF). This technique separates characteristic X-rays of different elements into a complete fluorescence energy spectrum, which is then processed for qualitative or quantitative analysis.
Using the Thermo Scientific ARL QUANT’X EDXRF, nuclear engineers can reduce the time required to identify corrosive elements in water cooling systems from a half-day to minutes per filter.
Using the Thermo Scientific ARL QUANT’X EDXRF Spectrometer, for example, calibration and analysis are fast and simple, as no sample preparation is required. Researchers simply put the filter directly into the instrument, with each scan taking less than 10 minutes per filter. The analysis is also non-destructive, enabling researchers to keep the sample for future reference.
All types of samples can be analyzed including solids, powders, liquids, filters and thin layers—with analysis in a vacuum, helium or atmospheric conditions. The instrument can rapidly detect the presence of all elements, even in very small concentrations of less than one part per million. Moreover, the entire filter can be analyzed, helping engineers detect elements even when they’re unevenly present across the filter.
The ARL QUANT’X EDXRF also comes with a powerful silicon drift detector (SDD) that allows for the accurate detection of elements deposited on the filter at a rate three times faster than older detector types. Fitted with a thin window and capable of handling high count rates at excellent resolutions, the SDD offers superior performance across the periodic table, from light to heavy elements.
With the ARL QUANT’X EDXRF, nuclear engineers can shorten analysis time from half a day to just minutes per filter, which dramatically increases efficiency and throughout. Also, they’ll consistently get accurate and repeatable results, making it possible to proactively identify even the smallest traces of corrosive elements in water cooling systems before they become a safety issue.
To learn more about how the ARL QUANT’X EDXRF can be used to analyze corrosion residues in nuclear power plant water cooling systems, please download the Thermo Scientific poster.
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