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Non-nuclear energy


Fission and radiation protection

Gap Analysis for Long-Term Inspection Needs of Nuclear Plant: Inspection Tools Methods and Strategies for the Future

The GAIN project is a Specific Support Action with the aim of identifying the medium to long-term inspection needs of nuclear plant and assessing where these needs can be met from recent and/or current research and technological development work. A gap analysis will be performed to help direct future European collaborative research work in this area.

New technologies and new strategies

(Courtesy by EC/JRC, IE)
(Courtesy by EC/JRC, IE)
Inspection by non-destructive testing (NDT) and continuous monitoring plays an important role in assuring the continued safe and economic operation of nuclear plant in Europe. The inspection methods themselves, including the underlying technology, and the way in which they are applied via inspection strategies are continuing to evolve for various reasons. These include change of inspection needs as plant ages, the emergence of new inspection technologies and strategies, and the new challenges associated with decommissioning nuclear plant and the storage of radioactive waste.

Development of new inspection technologies and strategies is undertaken through a wide variety of fragmented routes including in-house, single-party contract, national programmes and international collaborative development programmes. This approach can lead to duplication of effort, inefficient use of resources and lack of awareness of results. The object of the GAIN project is to overcome these problems by matching future inspection needs to existing research and development results, and then identifying where work is required to fill gaps in our knowledge.

Identifying needs and assessing wishes

As well as identifying the required inspection methods, tools and strategies for the future, GAIN will also assess training needs and sources, and large infrastructure needs. This 'wish list' will be compiled by using questionnaires and organising meetings and workshops with both nuclear utilities and regulators. Participants will also include organisations with responsibilities in decommissioning nuclear facilities and waste storage. To support this activity, a review of recent and current research and technological development (including training resources and unique research facilities) relevant to nuclear inspection needs will be undertaken. These two components will then be brought together for analysis.

Identifying any apparent gaps between recent and current research work and the wish list of both utilities and regulators will help pinpoint where effort and resources could be best directed in future EU RTD activities and other collaborative work. The results will be presented to the public through a final report.

Future research for improved inspections

The outcome of the GAIN project will be the correlation of recent and current research and development with future inspection needs, and the identification of gaps which can be filled by future R&D work. This will be described in a final report that will cover the work performed and present the consolidated wish list in full. The report will also present a review of recent, current and planned investments in major research infrastructure and other related capital projects from across Europe. The analysis will highlight the extent to which items on the wish list are already covered by the identified investment plans. From this analysis, priority topics will be listed for consideration in appropriate future EC Shared Cost Actions, as well as those that could be funded by cost sharing between interested parties without requiring support from EC funding.

Ensuring safety, reducing risk

Inspection of nuclear plant by non-destructive testing and continuous monitoring processes plays an important role in assuring the safe and economic operation of nuclear power plants. Inspection will also have an increasingly important input in ensuring the safety and security of waste storage facilities, and in decommissioning activities. In these later activities, remote surveys and assessment of integrity will be required in areas never designed for inspection, thus offering new challenges to inspection research.

The GAIN Specific Support Action will have a major impact on ensuring that future inspection needs can be met by providing, as far as is currently practicable, a broad awareness of relevant inspection technology and knowledge, which has been or is being developed, and by identifying gaps which can be bridged by future collaborative or jointly funded development work. This is essential to ensure continuing and increasing protection for the public. The project will include an inquiry into the future need to reduce radiation exposure of workers and how this can be achieved using more sophisticated methods and a better design of the inspection programme. These methods may include risk-informed in-service inspection strategies to focus inspection activities where they are most needed, and through inventive manipulator or deployment arrangements that reduce the time spent by workers close to the radioactive component or components.

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