Ceramic Coatings for Clad (The C^3 Project): Advanced Accident-Tolerant Ceramic Coatings for Zr-alloy Cladding

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Materials Science and Engineering

Abstract

Enhancing the safety of nuclear fuel is an important component in the continued use, and expansion, of nuclear power. One area where safety can be enhanced is enhancing the cladding around the nuclear fuel. Such a coating will enhance further the long term stability of the fuel under normal reactor operation, whilst at the same provide an extra level of insurance should an incident similar to that in Fukushima happen. These new coatings will provide a barrier between the Zircalloy cladding and air/water, which will help to prevent the formation of hydrogen gas from steam formed when there is a loss of coolant accident (LOCA), i.e. the process that happened at Fukushima Daichi, in March 2011.

Using the combined expertise/knowledge from within the UK and US a collaborative research team has been put together to develop such coatings. Two options will be addressed one based on using oxide, such as zirconia, whilst a second will be based on ternary carbide/nitride based materials, such as MAX phases. M(n+1)AX(n) phases have previously been shown to not only recover rapidly from radiation damage, but also excellent thermal/corrosion properties making them ideal for this application.

For the development of new coatings to be used in the current, and future, nuclear reactor fleet, new coatings must be prepared, and examined for stability, under a range of reactor conditions. The experimental programme will address issues such as the preparation of the coating, stability of bonding between coating and fuel, the effects of radiation damage on the interface, and how the enhanced coating increases stability of the fuel to both high temperatures/pressures experienced within a fission core. These experiments will also be used to validate simulations of corrosion, providing a means by which simulations can be reliably used.

One final assessment of the coatings once tested, is how they behave under conditions that model a LOCA event.

The results from this work will be used in developing technologies for existing and future reactor technologies.

Planned Impact

This project will impact in many areas primarily technology development, for example new coating technologies which can be applied to those materials where there is a requirement for a lower temperature of fabrication than would currently be ideal. The development of new coatings for use within fission reactors will be the prime driver of this work, such coatings can increase both the lifetime and stability of current fuel assemblies, while at the same time provide a means by which fuel for future, e.g. GenIII and GenIV designs, can be enhanced while still in the development stage. The results form this work can be directly used in developing future designs, and extending the life of the current fleet of fission reactors.

A secondary, although equally important, impact is the development of new collaborations between the US and UK in nuclear materials development. In recent history both have been expanding but, there are still opportunities available by which enhancements in both knowledge and materials developments can still be increased, this is one of those opportunities. Utilising the skills within the UK, and combining them with contrasting skills and capabilities in the US enhances further the quality of outcomes for this work.From a UK stand point, enhancement in our nuclear R&D capabilities will go some way to overcome the gap highlighted by the House of Lords report into nuclear science and engineering. At the same time exposure to US laboratories, and industrial partners will highlight the expertise available in this country, and go some way to ensure the UK is considered a valuable partner in nuclear research worldwide. Since nuclear research has now reached the point where international consortia are considered routine, highlighting the UK as a place to collaborate with can only enhance our future impact in this area.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/K039237/1 24/06/2013 14/09/2015 £1,075,144
EP/K039237/2 Transfer EP/K039237/1 15/12/2015 01/09/2017 £348,825
 
Description The grant has worked closely with US partners on the development of novel coatings for fuel cladding. The results generated so far have shown great promise, and are being tested in the US under reactor accident conditions. The coatings are still in the developmental stage, but the expectation of benefits if used in power reactors.
Exploitation Route The coatings will have applications in other areas where high temperature corrosion is a problem. This will be investigated during the later stages of the grant.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description Los Alamos National Laboratory 
Organisation Los Alamos National Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Free flowing discussions about radiation damage in materials and how they can be examined/determined, and the linking of results from the UK with those collected/predicted in the US.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of expertise in the analysis of data, and source data for modelling and simulation of damage
Impact Development and organisation of joint symposia examining the effects of radiation damage on materials, and how the effects can be predicted
Start Year 2008
 
Description Penn State 
Organisation Penn State University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analysis of coated samples fabricated at PSU using an in-house method. The coatings were designed for use within a nuclear reactor, and increase the accident tolerance of fuel cladding.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of coated samples fabricated using an in-house method. The coatings were designed for use within a nuclear reactor, and increase the accident tolerance of fuel cladding.
Impact Development of new methods for coating of samples
Start Year 2013
 
Description University of Tennessee 
Organisation University of Tennessee
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analysis of materials provided, and expertise in the analysis of materials, in particular structural and the effects of radiation damage.
Collaborator Contribution Supply of samples for analysis, and free flowing discussion about future research options.
Impact Outcomes include development of joint grant applications across many funding sources.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Invited Seminar at Los Alamos National Laboratory 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk entitled 'Disorderly Behaviour in Ceramics' at Los Alamos National Laboratory, to an audience of research scientists, leaders, and students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited Seminar at University of Manchester - Dalton Nuclear Institute 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Invited seminar at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester, giving an overview of the work being undertaken
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk at Oak Ridge National Laboratory 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave an invited talk entitled 'Disorderly Behaviour in Ceramics' at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk at the Spring MRS 2016 Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk at the Spring MRS 2016 meeting, within the symposium 'Multiscale Behavior of Materials in Extreme Environments', talk entitled 'Unclear Nuclear Materials Development'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshop in S Korea on nuclear separations and materials 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop on the separation and disposal of radioactive isotopes in nuclear waste, this was the second workshop after the similar event in Sheffield (Feb 2016). The workshop forms part of the joint UK-Korea funded project, and linked with the Solid Phase Extractants for Radionuclide Remediation Network (SPEAR).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016