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Analysis of Resource Adequacy in ERCOT - July - December 2020

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Industry News

Scientists Figure Out How to Check Steam Generator Bolts

LCG, Sept. 12, 2000--Scientists at Southwest Research Institute have modified the cylindrically guided wave technique to detect and characterize borated water corrosion in the all-thread bolts used by the nuclear power industry in heat exchanger flanges, the institute said yesterday in a fairly technical news release.

The steam generators in nuclear power plants are sometimes called heat exchangers. They are full of hundreds of tubes hooked to big pipes. Where the big pipes connect to the reactor coolant plumbing the connections are flange-to-flange and bolted together with big bolts that can be 20 inches long and an inch and a half in diameter. The bolts have threads their entire lengths and are secured with nuts at each end.

All you see from the outside is the end of a bolt and the nut, so when the bolts are inspected workers look for discoloration. If the end of the bolt looks funny, the plant is shut down and the bolt is removed for a closer look. This is a very expensive process.

What the scientists at Southwest Research have come up with is a way to use ultrasonic energy to check for corrosion. When there is a leak in a flange even one you can't see the water gets at a bolt and can corrode it. The water has had borate added to it to minimize corrosion.

Now, the borated water doesn't corrode the bolt so it looks rusty, as ordinary water might. As the borated water corrodes the all-thread material it leaves a very smooth, almost polished surface. This smooth surface allows the ultrasonic mode-converted signals to form and produces the information needed to assess damage.

The scientists call their method the "cylindrically guided wave technique" and like to use the initialism "CGWT." Dr. Glenn M. Light, director of the Southwest Research nondestructive evaluation science and technology department, said using CGWT on all-thread bolts was something new. "We developed this technique about 20 years ago for inspecting any bolt except all-thread," he said. "Borated water corrosion presents unique circumstances that enable inspectors to use CGWT in a slightly different manner than has been used previously."

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