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Remote Drone Vessel Inspections Help ATR Prepare for Major Overhaul
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Source: Idaho Falls Magazine
The Advanced Test Reactor at Idaho National Laboratory is the world’s most powerful and flexible test reactor. It is designed to study the effects of intense irradiation on materials. Since the reactor began operation in 1967, ATR has provided test capabilities for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered vessels and the nation’s commercial nuclear power industry. Since 2008, it has welcomed researchers from industry and academia to propose experiments to be run in its one-of-a-kind core.

The reactor’s unique serpentine core design allows for multiple experiments to run simultaneously under different conditions and power levels. Its low operating temperature and pressure exempt it from much of the wear and tear that commercial reactor vessels endure, but high neutron radiation levels cause some of its core components to get brittle.

Maintaining peak performance by replacing reactor internals To keep the reactor’s innards in tiptop shape, the facility performs a core internals changeout (CIC) – essentially a major overhaul – every 10 to 15 years to renew the reactor’s internal core components. Think of it like a classic sports car that is immaculately maintained for more than 50 years and gets its engine rebuilt every decade or so to maintain peak performance.

The U.S. Department of Energy has committed to keeping ATR in operation through at least 2040. Evaluations will be conducted between now and then on the options for maintaining ATR operations beyond 2040 as well as options for a possible replacement for it. One thing for certain is that the demand for the testing and research capabilities it provides is expected to continue for decades, at least through 2085.

Read the full article at IdahoFallsMagazine.com.