The nuclear containment – iconic and functional

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The nuclear containment – iconic and functional

In addition to the two 550-foot tall cooling towers that provide cooling water to Plant Vogtle units 1 and 2, the other most visible and iconic structures are the two cylindrical dome-shaped containment buildings.

 

Steel-reinforced concrete containment buildings, sometimes called containment vessels or just containments, are standard in modern electricity generating facilities that utilize nuclear energy as their heat source. Plant Vogtle’s containment buildings are 140 feet in diameter and 226 feet high.

Plant Vogtle

In addition to the two 550-foot tall cooling towers that provide cooling water to Plant Vogtle units 1 and 2, the other most visible and iconic structures are the two cylindrical dome-shaped containment buildings.

 

Steel-reinforced concrete containment buildings, sometimes called containment vessels or just containments, are standard in modern electricity generating facilities that utilize nuclear energy as their heat source. Plant Vogtle’s containment buildings are 140 feet in diameter and 226 feet high.

 

Each of the two Vogtle containments house the nuclear steam supply system (NSSS) components – one reactor vessel (with 193 uranium fuel assemblies), four steam generators, four reactor coolant pumps and a pressurizer. It’s within this equipment that heat – generated inside the reactor through nuclear fission – is used to boil water and create steam. This high pressure steam is piped outside the containment building to turn large turbine-generator rotors that produce enough electrical energy to power, when both units are operating, a half million homes and businesses.

 

Plant Vogtle’s containments sit on 10-foot thick concrete and rebar foundations and have nearly four-foot thick steel reinforced concrete walls – all designed to withstand earthquakes. The concrete walls are comprised of large interlacing rebar, a steel cable system and an interior steel plate. The purpose of the containment building is to isolate radioactive materials as part of a defense-in-depth approach to plant and public safety, and to protect the NSSS equipment from outside forces such as severe weather, terrorist attacks and even aircraft impact.

 

During normal operation, the containment is airtight and personnel access the building through airlocks. Containment buildings in the United States are subject to mandatory leakage rate tests. When a unit is shut down for maintenance and refueling, hundreds of employees will enter containment to perform maintenance and refueling work.

 

Watch our Nuclear 360 video below or click here for an inside look a Plant Vogtle containment building!