Sandia National Laboratories is using its Ion Beam Laboratory (IBL) to study how to rapidly evaluate the tougher advanced materials needed to build the next generation of nuclear reactors and extend the lives of current reactors. Recent research was funded by NNSA’s Laboratory Directed Research & Development (LDRD) program.
Reactor operators need advanced cladding materials, which are the alloys that create the outer layer of nuclear fuel rods to keep them separate from the cooling fluid. Better alloys will be less likely to deteriorate from exposure to everything from coolant fluids to radiation damage.
Operating a reactor causes progressive microstructural changes in the alloys used in cladding, and that can hurt the materials’ integrity. However, present-day methods of evaluating materials can take decades.
The LDRD project worked with a variety of samples, everything from high-purity, single-crystal copper to materials used in today’s reactors. The Sandia team found that under the right conditions, a combinatorial approach can be used with new alloy compositions produced in-house. The LDRD project demonstrated a fundamental physics simulation of what’s happening to the material.
To read more about the research see: https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/reactor_materials/