Picture a 33 year-old asphalt road: weathered with time, bearing the cracks and crags of decades of harmless-seeming water trickling into its crevices, freezing, expanding, breaking up the road from within.
Most people wouldn’t want to trust their car to the safety of a road like this.
And it certainly isn’t the image anyone wants to invoke when talking about critical equipment in nuclear reactors.
Yet, on Friday the 13th, two leading materials scientists announced that the Belgian reactors, Doel 3 and Tihange 2, may be experiencing the nuclear equivalent in their reactor pressure vessels; essentially the piece of equipment that contains the highly radioactive nuclear fuel core being comparable to an old, busted up road.
Thousands of cracks have been discovered in the pressure vessels of both reactors. This component is required to be integrally sound, with no risk of failure, due to the potentially catastrophic nuclear disaster resulting from the failure of a pressure vessel.
In response, the Director General of the Belgian nuclear regulator, The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC), admitted that, “This may be a global problem for the entire nuclear industry. The solution is to implement worldwide, accurate inspections of all 430 nuclear power plants.”
When the head of a federal nuclear regulator says that every reactor in the world needs to be inspected for a critical nuclear safety problem, the smart thing for national nuclear regulators to do is take immediate action. Certainly, every reactor needs to be inspected for such cracking at the earliest possible date, but no later than the next maintenance outage.
Read more at Thousands of cracks in Belgian reactors, potentially a global nuclear problem
Resource: Tests revealed a stunning 13 047 cracks in Doel 3; and 3 149 cracks in Tihange 2.