European research project aims to understand concrete degradation

10 September 2020

A new research project supported by the European Union aims to clarify, enhance and unify methods of structural integrity assessment of safety-critical concrete infrastructure in support of long-term operation of nuclear power plants. Coordinated by Finland's VTT Technical Research Centre, the collaborative project seeks to improve the understanding of ageing and deterioration of such concrete.

In September 2018, Belgian utility Electrabel announced that scheduled outages at Tihange 2 and 3 had been extended while concrete degradation issues in adjacent non-nuclear buildings were addressed (Image: Electrabel)

The ACES project, which began on 1 September and will run until 31 August 2024, has a total budget of just over EUR5 million (USD6 million), of which the European Commission is funding almost EUR4 million under the H2020-Euratom-1 programme.

The consortium involved in the project comprises 10 European companies and research partners, and one international partner. They are: Engie Lab and SCK-CEN of Belgium; CTU and CVR of the Czech Republic; CEA, EDF and IRSN of France; ZAG of Slovenia; Energorisk of Ukraine; and, ORNL of the USA.

The project will study the deterioration and ageing mechanisms of reinforced concrete, such as in reactor containment buildings, as well as predicting the occurrence of corrosion. It aims to develop an innovative inspection tool for early detection of corrosion.

"The ACES project will have a significant impact on the safety of current operational nuclear power plants, and will also impact the design of next-generation plants," said Miguel Ferreira, project coordinator at VTT. "It will improve the understanding of ageing of concrete and, more importantly, will demonstrate and quantify inherent safety margins defined by codes and standards employed throughout the life of the plant."

"The outcomes from ACES will therefore support the long-term operation (LTO) of nuclear power plants," VTT said. "This will be achieved by using more advanced and realistic scientific methods to assess the integrity of nuclear power plant concrete infrastructure. ACES will provide evidence to support the methods by carrying out various tests, including large-scale tests based on replicated scenarios of nuclear power plants."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News