Ep 130: Eddie Guerra - Senior Structural Engineer, Arup
Javier’s early career (0:32)
0:32-4:13 (Javier shares his first steps in professional career)
Q. You spent all your career in nuclear, but you studied naval engineering. How did it happen
that you decided to work in our sector?
A. Javier felt like an engineer since his youngest years. When he was starting his studies, Spain
was a very strong player in naval industry. However it degraded severely in the coming years. It
was the opposite with nuclear – it flourished at that time.
Javier felt that he could develop his engineering skills in nuclear because it’s an industry
focused on technology. He started his career in Tecnatom and he could tell that this is where
his future lies. Indeed, he’s still there, now as CEO of the company.
4:13-9:00 (Javier lists Tecnatom’s points of focus at the time when he joined the company)
Q. What did Tecnatom do at the moment when you started?
A. Tecnatom was created in 1957 and Javier joined the company in 1986. The company was
only working for the Spanish market. Tecnatom was focused in training of staff and inspection.
These activities require high level of specialization and Tecnatome brought these skills for the
country. Javier started in the in-service inspection. Tecnatom’s expertise is to show the NPPs
‘how to operate a power plant’ – deriving from the experiences of all the energy sectors. One of
the examples of Tecnatom’s creations are full-scope simulators of control rooms. Javier tells a
story that some time ago, when computers were not so popular, people could not believe that
the simulators are not hard-wired with a reactor, but with a computer. At some point Tecnatom
used the most powerful computer in Spain to simulate the reactor.
Long Term Operation LTO
9:00-14:50 (Javier explains the details of Long Term Operation of power plants)
Q. Long Term operation – on one side the NPPs turn out to be operable for longer than initially
expected, on the other – the technologies become obsolete. What do you think about this? Are
the plants that are being built now going to serve for longer? Are the plants currently operating
capable to serve for longer?
A. The new power plants that are being built now are scheduled to serve 60 years. The currently
operating units were designed decades ago, with almost no computer-aided engineering.
However, even now, most of the designs of the heavy components of a NPP remain unchanged
even by now. But the experience on how to operate the power plant is growing, which makes
the operation of an NPP safer with time – with the lessons from accidents, but also smallest
incidents that happen on site all over the world. We develop safety culture and we renovate the
plants all the time, using better components than the ones originally installed. Efficiency is also
being improved – operation factors are being increased close to 90% globally – before it could
go to as low as 70%. Looking at the economics, safety and environment – the LTO of 60-80
years is a very good choice. There is no reason for closing the plants prematurely, like
Germany did. German reactors are very well designed and they could serve for longer.
LTO in Spain (14:50)
14:50-17:43 (Javier explains the situation of Spanish NPPs)
Q. Is Spain entering LTO with its fleet?
A. In Spain LTO is a very political question. Average age of the reactors is 47 years. The
energy transition plan in Spain appears very expensive – 240 bn euros spent up to 2030. Javier
that the pandemic crisis Spain may experience financial issues in realizing such an investment.
Spain should fix the priorities – climate change and lowering the emissions, biodiversity etc. The
plants existing now should be reviewed for LTO. The plan established now was based on
politics, communication issues and environment, but not on the economics and security of
supply, now it is time to reconsider it.
In-service inspection (17:43)
17:43-21:30 (Javier describes the details of in-service inspection)
Q. Jumping back to the in-service inspection, can you tell me which parts of power plant can be
inspected in-service and why not the others?
A. Javier started working in the in-service inspection of Steam Generators (SG) – it’s one of the
most important components in a PWR system. There is a lot of engineering work before
deciding what to inspect in-service and what not, but the key objective is to prove the
functioning of all the boundaries isolating primary and secondary circuit, and not dispersing
radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere. The methods like using ultrasonic or eddy current are
being developed to demonstrate it. The problem in a NPP is that the access to some area is
restricted because of the radiation level – robotic tools, underwater devices are designed and
used for these particular activities. Professionals from fields of electronics, robotics, non-
destructive material testing are working together in these projects. Over the years, the number
of staff required and the radiation doses were reduced dramatically.
The future of in-service inspection (21:30)
21:30-25:24 (Javier gives his insight on the developments of in-service inspection)
Q. In-service inspection means that means that it is performed during the fuel campaign. Do you
think that the scope of services will change for the new reactors?
A. For the new NPPs there are 2 important topics: first is materials, which are much better now.
The need for inspection of the new plants is lower because we expect less problems. Another
topic is on-line inspection. Using them you are able to inspect the devices throughout all the
operation of the plant, which help reduce number of tests performed during the outage.
Tecnatom works both in online monitoring and automatization of the process, reducing number
of staff performing the operations. For example, Steam Generator makes up to around 200km of
tubing. Thanks to optimization of work, Tecnatom is able to test all the tubes in very short time.
25:24-28:06 (Javier points to some of Tecnatom’s projects in R&D field)
Q. Tecnatom also has an R&D department, that you were a head of. Do you have your favorite
project that you were leading or supervising?
A. Javier was working on automatics aimed at data analysis for the Steam Generator
inspections and to automatize the data acquisition. Javier also enjoys robotics. At that time
Tecnatom was also developing projects for aeronautics, and right now they are a leading
company running inspections of carbon composites for the aeronautic industry. All the expertise
useful for aeronautics Tecnatom drew from nuclear.
Final remarks (50:58)
50:58-56:32 (Javier gives his remarks about the role of nuclear power now and in the future)
Q. As we are wrapping up, I want to give you the floor to talk about something that is exciting to
A. Javier thinks that Tecnatom has wonderful employees. He thinks that nuclear sector
demonstrated its excellence during the crisis. Spanish power plants were able to run smoothly,
including 3 outages at the same time. There is one important lesson to be learned from the
crisis. The politicians were saying that they were following the advice of specialists, people who
know about the problem. Javier would like to have politicians listening to the experts in energy,
about closing of NPPs and replacing it with combustion fuels. In Europe, if we want to be an
important part of the world, i think that we should keep the nuclear option open, because this
technology will be necessary in the future. It’s being developed and improved a lot so in the 30s
we will see many more countries going nuclear. Even in aerospatial industry, nuclear is crucial,
soon there will be reactors adapted to space. Leaving nuclear would be a strategic problem for