Significant industry developments over the past decade have placed concrete ageing at the forefront of life extension decisions related to nuclear power plants. Recent issues encountered include alkali–silica reactivity in concrete, delamination events, larger than anticipated loss of pre-stressing force, spent fuel pool leakage, corrosion of steel reinforcement in water intakes, and others.

Concrete structures at nuclear power plants are being asked to perform for longer periods than originally design life. Utilities around the world are investigating plant service life extensions (with 60 years or more total being a quoted target), and for some projects delayed construction schedules, and/or decommissioning strategies that involve the use of containment as a “safe store” for periods of up to 100 years, mean that containment buildings and other concrete structures often have to perform their functions for a time period significantly greater than their initial design life. Newer plants are designed with design lives of 60 years or more.

Concrete is a durable material and its performance as part of the containment function in NPPs has been good. However, experience shows that ageing degradation of concrete structures, often caused or accelerated by factors such as faulty design, use of unsuitable or poor quality materials, improper construction, exposure to aggressive environments, excessive structural loads, and accident conditions, can impair its safety functions and increase risks to public health and safety. Effective ageing management of concrete containment buildings and other concrete structures is therefore required to ensure their fitness-for-service throughout the plant service life and during decommissioning.

The paper presented will present current International Atomic Energy Agency activities in the area of concrete structures and ageing management, and point to where guidelines and best practises related to concrete structure ageing management, relevant operating experience, and applicable codes and standards may be located.

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