Materials Research for the Power Industry

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) announced earlier this year that it has teamed with French power company EDF and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to create the international Materials Aging Institute, a collaborative research facility that will examine the critical link between materials science and power plant component performance and degradation.

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff June 1, 2008

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) announced earlier this year that it has teamed with French power company EDF and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to create the international Materials Aging Institute, a collaborative research facility that will examine the critical link between materials science and power plant component performance and degradation.

The Institute’s mission is to explain and anticipate the aging of materials in existing power production facilities, to improve knowledge of high-temperature materials behavior in future power plants, and to maintain expertise and skills on materials science. Its research will provide the technical foundation that supports the continued safe, efficient, and cost-effective operations of power plants worldwide and support the construction of new plants built to the highest industry and technical standards. Research will encompass materials issues at nuclear, fossil, and hydroelectric generating facilities.

“The founding of the Materials Aging Institute reflects both the global nature of the electric power industry and the common challenges facing power plants around the world,” said Chris Larsen, vice president of EPRI’s nuclear sector. “By teaming with research organizations, such as EDF and TEPCO, we will be working with recognized experts in materials science and technology, ensuring that research and development efforts focus on critical issues with widespread industry impact.”

With an initial budget of $13.1 million, the Institute has selected nine projects to establish the research and development program for 2008. Among the areas that will be analyzed are equipment corrosion, component and material degradation due to irradiation, non-metallic material performance (e.g., polymers), and concrete aging.

The Materials Aging Institute will be based at EDF’s facilities in Les Renardieres, France. EDF is investing $22.3 million to erect a new building to house the Institute and is purchasing modern laboratory equipment, including three electron microscopes and powerful numerical simulation tools.

The Institute will initially be staffed by members of EDF, EPRI, TEPCO, utility organizations, national laboratories and universities. To address global concerns regarding the medium- to long-term availability of a capable workforce for the electric power industry, the Institute will include a formal training program for young engineers.