Performance and Reliability of Metallic Materials for Nuclear Fission Power Generation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Materials


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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Platt P (2015) A study into stress relaxation in oxides formed on zirconium alloys in Journal of Nuclear Materials

Description Work under the PROMINENT programme fostered better understanding of stress corrosion cracking phenomena in plant materials, and better understanding of hydride precipitation in Zr alloys. In addition, we developed new understanding of the effect of the undulating oxide-metal interface on oxide integrity in Zr alloys.
Exploitation Route In addition to the gains we have made in the understanding of metals for nuclear energy applications, of particular use from this project has been the development of work in characterisation and modelling techniques. In particular, the two PhD students have done some very interesting, innovative work in the use of electron microscopy techniques and modelling respectively.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description This multi-faceted project has enabled a range of research to be undertaken around the theme of metallic materials for applications in nuclear power generation. The focus of this work has been on zirconium and steels, and their behaviours under a range of simulated in-service conditions. The project involved modeling, experimental and material characterisation work, comprising a complementary approach to the issue. As a result, we understand these materials more, but have also developed a range of innovative techniques which can be taken forward to a range of future projects.
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Rolls-Royce plc 
Organisation Rolls Royce Group Plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2007
Description Westinghouse 
Organisation Siemens AG
Department Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution contribution to R&D knowledge
Collaborator Contribution top up of PhD students, fully funded PhD students and materials including irradiated materials
Impact Some of our PhD students now work for Westinghouse in Sweden and the USA. We also improved WH's understanding of their product.
Description Wood plc 
Organisation Wood Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution informing and advising Wood
Collaborator Contribution Direct and in-kind contribution.
Impact Some of our PhD students now work for Wood
Start Year 2015