For nuclear power stations, the main function of Essential Service Water System (ESWS) is to discharge the waste heat from reactor core and spent fuel pool to the environment controllably, which is directly related to the safety and economy of nuclear power stations. Usually ESWS use open water from sea, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, as heat transfer medium. Extremely harsh environmental conditions may disable system functions and even lead to ESWS failure, directly reduce the safety and economy of nuclear power stations, and cause serious nuclear accidents. Failure of ESWS is one of the main reasons that lead to the Fukushima nuclear accident because of the loss of electricity after the earthquake and tsunami.
Based on the typical ESWS configuration and conditions of serving nuclear power stations in China, the influence of environmental conditions on the function of water system is studied, and the corresponding measures are analyzed. These conditions can be divided into three categories: temperatures, water levels, and physical and chemical characteristics. Temperatures affect cooling characteristic of ESWS mainly. Nuclear power stations in tropical areas need to focus on cooling capacity might be reduced by high temperature. Those in cold region need attention to excessive cooling and freezing problems caused by low temperature. The influence of water levels is mainly fluid transport capacity and selection of equipment to ESWS. When the range of natural water level is too wide, designers shall consider measures to narrow it, such as the construction of highly reliable reservoir. Inland nuclear power stations shall try to ensure the reliability of ESWS; prevent water level changes beyond the scope of design caused by drought and flood disasters. The effects of physical and chemical properties are derived from the open water characteristics, including high salinity, high chloride ion concentration, carrying solid particles, suspended solids, and aquatics, and so on. These characteristics will cause the equipment and pipeline eroded or even damaged, aqueducts of intake and output jammed, heat exchangers of the final heat sink weakened and other negative effects, resulting in ESWS performance decline. Some of these factors are the characteristics of station site natural environment, some others are changes caused by human activities. Some factors are sustained, long-term; some others may be sudden, temporary. Influence on these factors need to be taken measures from many aspects, including structure, biological disinfection, special materials and equipment, environmental protection measures around the nuclear power station, and so on.
On the whole, the environmental factors that affect ESWS in the nuclear power stations are wide, and the influence mechanism is more complex. These factors ultimately act on ESWS, but most of them cannot be banished inside of ESWS or the final heat sink system. Against the negative effects from environmental conditions, it has to be considered from all steps in the engineering of nuclear power stations, including design, construction and operation. All the measures shall be suitable to local conditions, in order to ensure the safety and economy of nuclear power stations.