Pipes, pumps and power stations! Our trip to EDF’s Dungeness B nuclear power station was a fantastic opportunity to see all that theory being put into practice. We were able to tour the power station and gain insight into the full cycle of generating electricity from nuclear fuel.
Our first stop on the tour was to view the Radiological Controlled Area (RCA) - here we had the opportunity to view the two reactors and learn about the reactor types, maintenance procedures and employee radiation exposure levels . Usually, when one hears ‘nuclear reactor’ they imagine deadly radiation exposure and dramatic explosions. What we were struck by is the surprisingly low amount of radiation employees are exposed to (0.5% of the UK government’s maximum annual recommendation) and the strict nature that this is monitored in the plant compared to in hospitals. It was interesting to see the non-chalant engineers dressed in just overalls walking over the nuclear reactors – a testament to the confidence they have for the safety of nuclear technology.
Next stop was the turbine hall where the electricity is generated. Electricity generation from steam is a concept that everyone on the trip was familiar with having come across it in high school physics or during our first year Thermodynamics module. However, what was particularly impressive was the scale to which everything was on. In addition to this everything in the hall was hand designed without the aid of computers, which is inconceivable to think of now due to our reliance on computer aided process design.
Finally we stopped at the cooling water pump house. Here we were able to see filtration of cool water coming in from the sea to remove fish and muscles (much to the delight of some very large seagulls!) before viewing some very large pumps, which pump the cool seawater into the turbine hall. As a little addition to our tour we were taken to see the training control room (which looked exactly like what you can see in the Simpsons) where control room engineers are trained.
Overall this was an invaluable insight into the nuclear industry and a great opportunity to see chemical engineering principles applied to real-world situations. If you are interested in more things nuclear stay tuned for our nuclear technologies panel discussing on ‘Breaking the Nuclear Cycle’ on February 6th 2015.
You can view the pictures from the trip here.