News & Events-Frazer-Nash tests resilience of nuclear power plants


Following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that led to the nuclear incident at Fukushima, leading engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash has been appointed by EDF Energy to undertake engineering and safety case assessments to support the evaluation of the resilience of UK nuclear power plants to natural disasters, including extreme flooding and seismic events.

Frazer-Nash was appointed by EDF Energy due to its diverse expertise and in depth knowledge of the nuclear sector, and is taking the technical lead on the electrical, mechanical and control/instrumentation design. Frazer-Nash is also leading the support with respect to the Safety Case tasking, currently in the final stages this will address both the findings of the assessments and the associated implementation to further enhance resilience of the overall programme which is due to complete in 2014.

Safety is always EDF Energy's overriding priority and the company has taken the events and subsequent lessons learned from Japan extremely seriously. As a result, and although the Office for Nuclear Regulation stated that it remained confident that UK nuclear facilities have no fundamental safety weaknesses, the company launched and mobilised the Japan Earthquake Response Programme. It ensures that the UK nuclear fleet continues to be protected from natural hazards by considerable margins.

The Japan Earthquake Response strategy enhances the capability of EDF Energy's nuclear plants to withstand and recover from extreme natural events, however unlikely they might be. Even if they were hit by the worst storm or flood that could be expected in the UK in 10,000 years, EDF Energy's nuclear plants would be safe.

Frazer Nash is modelling the impact natural disasters may have on the structure and operations of nuclear power plants in the UK at a range of intensities. This means events of bigger magnitude are planned for and the right measures, in terms of plant resilience, can be put in place to mitigate risk.  The work takes the project right from requirements management, through system based view, developing the technical specification and finally to engineering the solution.

The outcomes of the work will affect the specification of equipment at nuclear power plants through out the UK, as well as the overall design of nuclear power plants built in the future.

At the time of the earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima was one of several nuclear power plants operating on the east coast of Japan.  Among them was Onagawa nuclear power plant in the Miyagi District of Japan.  Despite being closer to the epicentre of the earthquake, Onagawa nuclear power plant was successfully shut down when the earthquake occurred and was able to withstand the tsunami when it arrived.  No nuclear incident occurred at Onagawa and the plant suffered limited damage.  The comparison between the situations at Fukushima and Onagawa provide very useful lessons to the industry on building resilience into designs.

Steve Ferroni, Business Manager at Frazer-Nash said: "We are delighted to have been appointed by EDF Energy and to be using our detailed knowledge and expertise of the nuclear sector to undertake this work.

This work is essential in terms of planning and being prepared for natural disasters and the potential impact these could have on the UK's nuclear power plants. In the long term having the right equipment and design in place will help ensure that the potential impact of any natural disasters on nuclear power plants in the UK is reduced as much as possible, helping to manage risk, down time and providing cost effective solutions."