What determines the life of nuclear power plants?

I researched that on average, nuclear power plants are designed to last 30-40 years, and in some cases 60 years. What determines the life of the plant? Why does the plant have to shut down after a certain amount of time?

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3 Responses to “What determines the life of nuclear power plants?”

  1. YA said:

    Obsolescence of technologies. Irradiated areas are too risky to clean out. The concrete protection layer needs to work 100%, and even going down to 99.9% is an unacceptable risk. In other words, it’s cheaper to just build another one. How long nuclear power plants last will also depend on the civil engineering technology, the economics of cleaning and acquisition of new land for this purpose, and the public’s expectations for safety.

    The other issue is that nuclear power plants have only been around for 50-60 years, so we don’t know exactly how to build one that lasts much much longer yet.


  2. Ecko said:

    Things just wear out. Imagine a 60 year old pump, boiler, steam turbine, generator, circuit breaker, motor or electronics. It might still work, and I am sure they would be the best available, but there would be more uncertainty about the reliability of everything. The degree of refurbishing and maintenance is an issue, and would extend the life of some parts. I understand (but have no direct knowledge) that components bombarded by neutrons etc, even pipes and structural materials, deteriorate too.

    The other issue is obsolescence. The electronics from the 60s would be primitive by modern standards. The basic design, method of operation, even of the nuclear process itself, becomes outdated, less desirable in the light of new techniques, not to mention social issues. The original designers have gone, and there is less knowledge about the actual design. Sounds like a good theme for a movie?

  3. Josh V said:

    This is an interesting question. The lifespan of a NPP usually depends on the operating license the NRC has given the plant, in the US that is. There aren’t old pump, old valves, old motors or old steam turbines. That is hogwash. The nuclear industry in the US is the most regulated industry in the world. Most items in these plants do not get “old.”

    A plant would decommissioned if it’s license was not renewed, or say the profit from operating was less than the cost to decommission.


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