The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear energy, accounting for more than 30% of the worldwide nuclear power generation. For this, the nuclear power industry in the U.S. is among the most heavily regulated and standardized commercial enterprises, subject to numerous observations and provisions like those detailed in ASME NQA-1-2022: Quality Assurance Requirements For Nuclear Facility Applications.
What Do Nuclear Facilities Do?
Nuclear power plants heat water to produce steam. Nuclear reactors (large kettles) are the heart of a nuclear power plant because they contain uranium fuel in their core and control nuclear chain reactions. These reactions produce heat water during a physical called nuclear fission, in which uranium atoms are split apart to create smaller atoms inside a nuclear reactor core, releasing energy. That heat from fission is used to boil water into steam that spins a turbine to create electricity. Hence, nuclear power plants do not emit greenhouse gases while generating electricity.
What Is ASME NQA-1-2022?
ASME NQA-1-2022 describes the quality assurance requirements to achieve safe, reliable, and efficient utilization of nuclear energy. The standard also specifies management and processing of radioactive materials. The standard is broken up in four parts:
- PART I: Establishes requirements for the development and implementation of a documented Quality Assurance Program for nuclear facility applications.
- PART II: Contains additional quality assurance requirements for the planning and conduct of specific work activities under a Quality Assurance Program developed.
- PART III: Contains guidance for implementing the requirements of Parts I and II.
- PART IV: Contains guidance for the application of NQA-1 and comparisons of the standard with other quality requirements.
What is the Quality Assurance Program in ASME NQA-1-2022?
The quality assurance program provides special controls, processes, test equipment, tools, and skills to attain the required quality and verification of activities and items. The program includes measures and processes to prevent, detect, and control Counterfeit and Fraudulent Items (CFSI), especially in the areas of engineering, production, procurement, inspection, and audits. Audits are performed to verify compliance to quality assurance program requirements, and audit results are documented, reported, and reviewed by responsible management. Here are some requirements for the quality assurance program ASME NQA-1-2022 specifies:
- Cleaning of components and systems
- Packaging and shipping of nuclear facility items
- Housekeeping for the work environment
- Installation, inspection, and testing of structural concrete, structural steel, soils, and foundations
- Acquisition, development, operation, maintenance, and retirement of software
- Installation, inspection, and testing of mechanical items
- Assurance a commercial grade item (CGI) or service performs its safety function
- Maintaining the integrity of electronic records and their supporting information
- High-level waste (HLW) custodians (organizations excluding NRC-licensed commercial nuclear utilities that is in possession of HLW prior to its planned disposition at a geologic repository.)
What is Nuclear Uranium Used for?
Uranium is a naturally radioactive element that is considered a nonrenewable energy source. Its nucleus is unstable, so the element is in a constant state of decay, seeking a more stable arrangement. Uranium is used to produce isotopes for medicine as nuclear medicine uses radiopharmaceuticals to assess bodily functions and treat disease. Nuclear uranium also powers commercial nuclear reactors.
ASME NQA-1-2022 details requirements for the safe, reliable, and efficient utilization of nuclear energy and management and processing of radioactive materials.
What Are The Top Nuclear Generating Countries?
Since there are more than 440 commercial reactors worldwide (including 92 in the United States), nuclear power continues to be one of the largest sources of reliable carbon-free electricity available. Ranked by nuclear power generation in Gigawatts (GW), here is a list of the top 5 nuclear generating countries:
- United States – 91.5 GW
- France – 61.3 GW
- China – 50.8 GW
- Japan – 31.7 GW
- Russia – 29.6 GW
ASME NQA-1-2022: Quality Assurance Requirements For Nuclear Facility Applications is available on the ANSI Webstore.