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During the 1960s and 1970s, when most nuclear plants in the United States were being designed and constructed, costs escalated in an uncontrolled manner. This was due to many factors, and all interested parties had an influence on the results. This chapter will address these issues, not to accuse or place blame, but to analyze and discuss in order to learn from the past.
The first commercial nuclear power plants were designed and constructed in the mid 1950s and early 1960s. Because these plants were based on the new technology of using nuclear reactions to heat water, thus producing steam to turn the turbines, there were no Codes or Standards that specifically addressed nuclear power plant components. Therefore, these early plants used the most applicable Codes and Standards that were available at the time [1–3]. That was the proper course of action.
At the time, the question was, what was available in terms of Codes and Standards? What Codes and Standards were really appropriate for pressure vessels and piping in a nuclear power plant? The designers of some nuclear power plant systems considered that question and determined that the nuclear reactor that contained the nuclear fuel was equivalent to a boiler in a fossil fuel power plant. Other designers felt that the nuclear reactor was an unfired pressure vessel. The available Code for the design and construction of the boiler were the American Society of Mechanical Engineer's Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, Section I, “Power Boilers” and Section VIII, “Unfired Pressure Vessels.” [1, 2]. Both approaches were correct because the differences between the two ASME Codes were minimal for the design and construction of the pressure vessel. The appropriate Piping Code used was ASME B31.1, “Power Piping” . Both Section I and Section VIII were used for the first nuclear power plant reactor pressure vessels, and B31.1 was used for the associated pressure piping, regardless of whether Section I or Section VIII was used for the nuclear reactor pressure vessel.