For Release: March 22, 1996
James W. Norvelle
RELEASE NO. 96-019
The state's nuclear power plants will receive a coating of a new NASA superplastic under an agreement pending between Virginia Power, Virginia Tech and NASA Langley Research Center.
The agreement is scheduled to be signed at 1 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the nuclear-powered Surry Power Station near Surry, Va.
The durable, temperature-resistant plastic, called LaRCTM-SI, will be applied to the various metal and concrete infrastructure components of Virginia Power's two nuclear stations, Surry and North Anna, to reduce maintenance costs.
"This agreement and the use of LaRCTM -SI is exciting in its possibilities," said Robert F. Saunders, vice president-Nuclear Operations at Virginia Power. "We believe this product has several applications that will help us reduce our costs. While North Anna and Surry are among the lowest-cost producers of electricity in the United States today, we continue to look for new, innovative ways to lower our costs even further.
"We're also glad to be associated with two other Virginia organizations in this enterprise. We look forward to finding new uses for this space-age product."
One of the applications Virginia Power plans to test involves service water pipes. The pipes must be cleaned regularly to remove small biological organisms that live in the lake or river water and attach themselves to the inside of the pipes. While not a safety issue, these hydroids affect the plant's thermal performance, slightly lowering the electrical output of the generators.
"We believe that a coating of LaRCTM-SI on the interior of these pipes will prevent the buildup of hydroids and possibly eliminate the need to perform maintenance on these pipes as frequently as we have," said Saunders.
LaRCTM-SI is a thermoplastic that can withstand elevated temperatures and harsh conditions that would degrade or destroy conventional plastics. It can be sprayed as a protective coating on materials such as complex circuitry. It also can be combined with compounds, such as graphite, ceramics and metals, to create a hybrid material with characteristics of both.
"If you mix graphite with it, it will feel like metal, not plastic," said Rob Bryant, the NASA Langley researcher who invented the material. "If you combine it with ceramic powder it'll feel like ceramic. Or you can leave it alone as a plastic. You can make gears out of it, use it in electronic circuitry or spray it to afford a protective coating. It's very versatile."
Under the agreement, NASA Langley will provide the technology. The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will test the material to develop a final product and application process. Virginia Power will provide the funding, augment the testing procedures and provide facility access.
Video b-roll, 8 x 10 color photos and fact sheets are available from NASA.
Take Route 10 toward Smithfield and Surry. Bypass Smithfield. As you enter the community of Bacon's Castle, turn right on Route 650 (across from the Surry Nuclear Information Center sign). This is known as Hog Island Road. Continue on this road until you reach the Nuclear Information Center/Local Media Center.
- end -