Ten Week Student Summer Placement

James Stevens, Nottingham University

During the ten week summer vacation placement I was based within the central engineering and technical department of a major UK power generation company. I worked alongside two established power plant chemistry specialists, with one acting as my mentor by assisting me throughout the placement. My principle task whilst on placement was to write a report reviewing water and steam cycle chemistry within possible new build nuclear power plants. This involved a literature search using both the internet and in house library resources. I started the report with almost no knowledge of the nuclear power plant designs in question and no detailed knowledge of how water chemistry is used within power plant cooling systems. Initially, this made the report very challenging. However, I quickly gained a further understanding of water treatment technology, the basic nuclear power plant system designs and how fossil power plant chemistry compares with nuclear power plant chemistry.

I also carried out several other tasks, including:

  • Technology tracking of recent fossil fuel power plant water chemistry advances.
  • Analysis of online chemistry data from a variety of coal and gas fired plants. This analysis comprised of obtaining an overview of the plant water chemistry cycle, downloading the data from the logging system, creating graphs and tables to represent the pertinent information in an easy to see form and generating a report to summarise my findings.
  • Scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis of turbine blade deposits.

I found the nuclear review particularly enjoyable, as it was previously an area that I was unfamiliar with. The research I carried out not only gave me a better understanding of the nuclear power industry, but it also helped me to put the fossil power plant water chemistry, learnt elsewhere, into a better perspective.

The skills that I have learnt whilst in my placement will definitely benefit me in the future. I feel that there has been a significant improvement in my report writing ability and I have increased my knowledge of Excel and its use in data manipulation. Both of these skills will hopefully be beneficial both during my final year project at university, as well as further on into my career. During my placement, I have realised that the role of chemistry within many industries is significantly more extensive than I previously thought. This has led to me considering a career within industries that I previously thought lacked opportunities for chemists.

I would like to thank both the sponsoring company and BIAPWS for the opportunity that I have been given. I feel that the experience it has given me will serve me well in the future and may possibly lead to me pursuing a career within the industry.