Keeping it Under Pressure

There are lots of acronyms and terminologies when talking about a nuclear power plant, but one term in particular carries a lot of weight when you refer to the safe operation of a nuclear power plant; maintaining containment pressure. 

To understand the term, you must first understand the location of where this would occur. The containment building is an airtight reinforced steel and concrete structure that encloses a nuclear reactor. These structures are built to such high standards that they can withstand the impact of a fully loaded passenger airliner without being ruptured.  This is also a testament to the importance of keeping what is inside the containment building safe and secure. The reactor that sits inside the containment building is where the fission process occurs and it is every nuclear site’s main priority to protect the reactor core. The way the core is kept safe is by keeping the cooling water inside the reactor circulating at all times. Because the temperature of the circulating water is so high, typically it would boil, but the reactor coolant system, which resides in the containment building is pressurized in order to keep the water in its liquid form. 

In the event that a nuclear site experiences any sort of threat to the nuclear reactor, there are parameters in place to allow the containment building to maintain proper pressure. The single function of these systems is to remove the heat and reduce the pressure in the containment building, thus protecting the reactor core, our teammates and the surrounding communities.


3 thoughts on “Keeping it Under Pressure

  1. ” Because the temperature of the circulating water is so high, typically it would boil, but the containment building is pressurized in order to keep the water in its liquid form. ”

    Do you mean the “Reactor vessel” is pressurized?
    Are any fo Duke Power’s containment buildings really pressurized?

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    1. You are correct in that the containment building itself is not pressurized. The reactor coolant system that resides in the containment building is a pressurized system. In trying to address this topic for a general audience, we erroneously indicated that the containment building was pressurized.

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      1. At CR3 our containment building was under constant pressure via tendons that wrapped around/through the building. This is incase of an accident, as the pressure increases inside the building those tendos should relax and give way and allow for the pressure inside the building to equalize (or at least hopefuly not increase too much).
        However, the water/coolant stays in its liquid form due to the high pressures in the reactor coolant system itself.

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