NEWS RELEASE                                   JULY 2011

Power Plant Materials Development Are the Key to Low Cost Clean Electricity

A new generation of ultrasupercritical boilers is on the drawing board.  The efficiency, environmental impact and cost of these new boilers are in no small part a function of new materials to handle the high pressures and temperatures.  The unique molten salt process for solar generation storage, the development of larger wind turbines, the safety of nuclear waste containment and the cost of small modular nuclear reactors are all a function of material availability. This conclusion is reflected in the monthly free Power Plant Materials Insights published by the McIlvaine Company ( and available in its Global Knowledge Orchard.

Ultrasupercritical coal-fired power plants offer as much as a 30 percent increase in efficiency over conventional subcritical power plants.  This means burning 30 percent less coal and producing 30 percent less CO2.  This also means 30 percent less capital investment in air pollution control systems and 30 percent smaller fans, coal conveyors, ball mills and other expensive equipment.

EPRI with funding from DOE has made some significant materials advancement to allow as much as a 250 degree F increase in temperature.  A consortium has been formed to pursue Project Cresta (Creep Resistant Stable).  CRMC, the research arm of Industeel, Alstom, Dong Energy and others are part of the consortium pursuing the development of a new alloy.

Experience with alloys and linings for flue gas desulfurization has revealed anomalies which need to be addressed to eliminate expensive corrosion failures in the future.  EPRI has an active program.  Lining suppliers are demonstrating repair solutions.

There are some big projects underway to use molten salt to store the heat generated by concentrated solar systems.  The toughest environment is the hot salt zone.   The combination of temperature and corrosion potential make this a challenging application for materials.  However, if too exotic a material is needed, the cost of thermal solar will not be competitive.

The materials needed to contain nuclear waste and those needed in nuclear reactors to maximize safety while providing electricity at a reasonable price are under constant evaluation. The future of nuclear power is dependent on evolution of the materials used in the system components.

Conventional power plant cooling systems also benefit by materials development.  Maintenance and repair is very expensive when it reduces plant availability. The latest generation of power plants is expected to operate for long periods between shutdowns. The choice of materials for less critical segments such as cooling tower piping can impact operability and therefore cost.

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