South African manufacturers wishing to participate in the nuclear sector need to adopt a series of measures and mindsets in order to achieve success. This was highlighted by international industrial standards and codes development association ASME VP (New York) and ASME governor-elect Bryan Erler on Thursday.
These include the implementation of a strong quality culture, the use of experienced and qualified sub-suppliers ("sub-suppliers are critical," he pointed out) and the achievement of a full understanding of the standards code that is specified for the nuclear power plant (NPP) design selected by the customer. They also include the need to train and continually re-qualify employees in the company's manufacturing processes and a readiness to take full advantage of the Authorised Inspection Agency, who will help keep up the company's standards.
Underlying everything is the need to adopt and implement standards for nuclear manufacturing. ASME has standards and codes which cover all pressure vessels, including well established standards and codes for the nuclear industry (covering operation and maintenance as well as manufacture). "ASME's nuclear construction standard is the technical basis for all other [nuclear] standards," he observed.
ASME has a number of nuclear standards, of which the best known are the nuclear-specific and nuclear-relevant sections of the organisation's renowned Boiler and Pressure Vessel (B&PV) code. Others are designated NQA-1 (covering quality assurance requirements for nuclear facility applications), OM (the code for the operation and maintenance of NPPs), RA-S (covering probabilistic risk assessment for NPP applications), Nuclear Air and Gas Treatment Requirements and Cranes in Nuclear Plants.
The B&PV code has 12 sections, of which Sections II, III, V, IX and XI are applicable to the nuclear industry. Especially Section III, which is entitled Rules for Construction of Nuclear Facility Components. "Section III is very intense for reactor design," noted Erler. "Section XI is also well-known. It's for in-service inspection of NPP components."
Section III is composed of five divisions. Division 5, for example, was developed for high temperature reactors, and South Africans had a major input into its creation, because of their involvement in the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, which was a high temperature reactor programme.
Today, 60 countries use the ASME B&PV code; 20 countries are Section III certificate holders. Many countries use the ASME nuclear code and standards. Many countries purchase nuclear components and equipment built to Section III standards. "Other countries use the ASME code and standards for the basis of their own codes and standards," he pointed out.
In 2012, there was an international comparison of all nuclear codes. Because it was the inspiration for all the others, the ASME was used as the baseline code. "It was discovered that there were very few technical differences [between them] and those were the result of local regulations," he reported. However, "ASME was the only one that had a conformity assessment programme within the code. Conformity assessment is all about quality. It's used in over 100 countries around world. It provides assurance to the utilities building NPPs."
"The ASME stamp shows you've gone through all the conformity assessment steps necessary," he affirmed. "It shows that components are constructed to internationally known standards, standards which have proven reliability. These standards are consensus standards. They qualify suppliers and involve the regular resurveying of suppliers. There is third party oversight during fabrication and construction. ASME codes, standards and conformity assessment programmes provide for quality programme consistency and ease of supply chain management."
For South African companies, he stated, ASME standards will make it much easier to enter international nuclear markets. "There is a big market out there!" The alternative would be to manufacture to different standards for different markets.
Erler was addressing the Nuclear Africa 2015 conference at the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation complex at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria.