Componentes del equipo de Válvulas en CN Cofrentes, durante Recarga 24.

Valves for everything. The importance of valves in a nuclear power plant

Valves play an essential role in various contexts, from the functioning of our own bodies to the operation of nuclear power plants. These devices regulate the flow of fluids using a mechanism or pressure differentials. Their simplicity in concept contrasts with the complexity of their actual implementation. In a nuclear power plant, valves are crucial for controlling systems such as water supply, cooling, and chemical treatment, among others.

In the Cofrentes nuclear power plant, with over 35,500 valves, special attention is given to these devices, necessitating highly trained personnel for their maintenance and care. There are various types of valves, from small and delicate ones to large and robust ones, and their operation can vary depending on the fluid, operational conditions, and specific needs.

The operational conditions of valves are of great importance since their malfunction could affect the plant and expose personnel to risks. Cooperation with departments such as Radiation Protection and Occupational Risk Prevention is essential to ensure workplace safety.

The regulations applied to valves vary depending on their location and their relation to safety. In the Cofrentes nuclear plant, following an American BWR design, it adheres to the ASME code, which establishes criteria for the design, operation, maintenance, and modification of nuclear components.

Valve design must consider factors such as valve type, materials, and accessibility for manipulation and maintenance. Preventive maintenance is essential for keeping the plant in good shape.

The variety of valve types and their combinations make working with them a multidisciplinary challenge. Collaboration among engineers, mechanics, electricians, and instrumentation specialists is fundamental for optimal valve operation. This cooperation in the nuclear industry is an example of teamwork, where operational experience and knowledge exchange are essential.

Apart from on-site personnel, collaboration with manufacturers and technologists allows for innovative solutions, even for valves installed since the plant’s first operation. The efficient response of manufacturers is crucial as nuclear plants require immediate attention during outages or plant issues.

Within the 35,500 valves of the Cofrentes nuclear plant, some play a crucial role in safety and undergo thorough diagnostic tests to assess their condition and evolution over time.

These tests provide detailed information on valve operation, enabling the anticipation of potential issues. Strain gauges are used to measure mechanical stresses and detect anomalies in valves. Additionally, electrical and mechanical parameters are observed during valve movement, generating valuable data.

The results of the tests are compared to acceptance criteria defined by the plant engineering, and valves are adjusted as necessary. Trace study allows for tracking valve degradation and predicting potential issues.

The diagnostic tests are conducted without having to open the valve. Maintenance is responsible for direct interventions where valve internal components are inspected or replaced. Detecting anomalies and implementing preventive plans reduce corrective actions.

Plant personnel work in close coordination across disciplines, ensuring comprehensive and efficient valve control. In summary, valves, although simple in concept, are crucial for various systems and require a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to ensure safe and efficient operation, particularly in nuclear plant contexts.

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