Performance and Reliability of Metallic Materials for Nuclear Fission Power Generation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering


In this research programme we will address fundamental research challenges for the long-term performance and stability of materials for nuclear fission power plant. The lifetime of power plant components is limited because of limits in their endurance under exposure to high temperatures, high loads, radiation, and the effects of cycling of load and temperature; there are issues related to corrosion that are exacerbated by applied stresses and residual stresses in materials; and the high neutron radiation flux in the core of the reactor generates progressive damage that must be understood if we are to be able to design new materials for future reactor systems with improved lifetimes and efficient use of nuclear fuel. This research programme will underpin the development of the nuclear fission power generation systems of the future.Metallic systems used in nuclear reactors range from pressure vessel steels to fuel cladding tubes to stainless steels used in the heat exchangers. The particular operating conditions for each component are unique and require carefully tailored materials properties. There are significant challenges in enhancing materials performance for operations at higher temperatures for longer lifetimes, and we have to improve our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which materials degrade and by which damage develops in nuclear reactors and their associated high-temperature plant.We will address fundamental research problems in improving the long-term performance of materials for nuclear plant exposed to service conditions of high temperatures, high neutron radiation fluences and complex load histories. The critical research challenges that arise for materials performance under these conditions are Materials Stability and Degradation and State Monitoring of Materials . We propose to address them through a broad collaborative programme incorporating the leading UK university groups and our wide network of external partners.The research programme is targeted mainly at the theme of Long term materials behaviour , but with a significant contribution in the area of fuel cladding materials . We have integrated work in these two areas because there is significant commonality in the research methodology (experimental and modelling) required for the study of the different metallic systems and because of our experience of the significant benefits that flow from maintaining close relationships with other nuclear research programmes in partner institutions.From our previous track record, we confidently expect a high degree of gearing as the work of the new consortium will complement and bring together our existing individual programmes, funded by industry and the Research Councils. In addition to delivering new research outputs and a cohort of trained researchers, this will place us in a strong position to respond effectively and in a coordinated manner to future funding opportunities from industry, the EU and the wider international nuclear community.


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Description We have developed non destructive techniques for for measurement of damage with recourse to using permanently installed sensors.

Novel methods have been developed for determining damage in the microstructure of steel.
Exploitation Route The techniques developed in the project remain in their infancy and more work is required to translate the methods to wider applications.
To date the follow-on from this project has been an Innovate UK project - ENVISINC - led by EDF Energy which led to a substantial study into understanding the effect of carburisation on creep fatigue performance on plant components in AGR environments.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine

Description The work was also undertaken in parallel to additional research sponsored through EDF and RCNDE. The outcomes of this research project are being used to enhance the research activities within the parallel programmes
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy
Impact Types Economic

Description EDF Energy High Temperature Centre partnership 
Organisation EDF Energy
Department EDF Energy Nuclear Generation
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Cutting edge materials analysis research into the evolution of 316 stainless steel components over extended periods exposed to AGR reactor core environments. The research has led to (i) better understanding of evolution of secondary phases in the steel and how they can contribute to damage accumulation caused by creep cavitation during service life and (ii) an initial observation of carburisation caused by exposure of plant components to high temperature CO2 in the reactor core. A side project of the PhD also examined the behaviour of uranium and uranium alloys during ultra-fast cooling.
Collaborator Contribution EDF provided reactor core samples for analysis - an amazing and unique set of materials take from key points of failure (cracking) in a number of AGR boiler units. Extraction of such samples runs to the 100's of thousands to millions of pounds in costs.
Impact The grant enabled the IAC (my group) to participate more fully in the EDF Energy High Temperature Centre activity and to gain funding during and beyond the end of the project, including fully funding a follow-on PhD and most recently funding the PhD student from PROMINENT (Dr Xander Warren) to work on an industry fellowship at the IAC to further advance his research on the high temperature behaviour of 316H plant components in the EDF Advanced Gas Reactors.
Start Year 2012