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Reference Number EP/N004493/1
Title An innovative, multi-scale, real-time approach to the understanding of deformation and fracture in irradiated nuclear reactor core graphites
Status Completed
Energy Categories NUCLEAR FISSION and FUSION(Nuclear Fission, Nuclear supporting technologies) 100%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields PHYSICAL SCIENCES AND MATHEMATICS (Metallurgy and Materials) 100%
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Not Cross-cutting 100%
Principal Investigator Dr D D Liu
No email address given
University of Oxford
Award Type Standard
Funding Source EPSRC
Start Date 01 February 2016
End Date 30 June 2018
Duration 29 months
Total Grant Value £311,689
Industrial Sectors Energy
Region South East
Programme Energy : Energy
Investigators Principal Investigator Dr D D Liu , Materials, University of Oxford (100.000%)
  Industrial Collaborator Project Contact , University of Oxford (0.000%)
Project Contact , National Physical Laboratory (NPL) (0.000%)
Project Contact , Technical University of Delft, The Netherlands (0.000%)
Project Contact , EURATOM/CCFE (0.000%)
Project Contact , University of California, USA (0.000%)
Project Contact , EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Limited (0.000%)
Project Contact , FESI: The UK Forum for Engineering Structural Integrity (ESI) (0.000%)
Project Contact , Berkeley (0.000%)
Web Site
Abstract Graphite is one of the most fascinating materials used in the current UK reactors and is a candidate for the new generation of high temperature reactors (Gen IV) designed to operate for 60 to 100 years. Graphite has complex microstructure and behaviour under irradiation; it is a non-replaceable reactor core component in Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs) and, hence, is life-limiting. This material has attracted extensive academic and industrial scrutiny to assist in underwriting the safe operation of nuclear fission reactors. Currently, the UK has 16 reactors generating about 20% of its electricity and all but one of these is scheduled to retire by 2023. However, life extension averaging 7 years for AGR units has been planned. There is 8 years before the earliest "end-of-life" scenarios for these AGRs is reached and this has set the horizon for this work programme on graphites. Lifetime extension of the AGRs is of strategic importance, not only for EDF Energy and its commercial interests but also for the UK's ability to meet electricity demand before the new generation of reactors are able to come online.Further understanding of the graphite structure in the moderator components of AGRs continues to ensure their safety. Key challenges remain, and have to be addressed in terms of improving the fundamental mechanistic understanding of nuclear graphite. Although research in these areas is difficult and challenging, the present project proposal builds on the PI's expertise in this topic area, combined with the use of emerging novel techniques, to attack this critical problem.1. Multi-scale characterisation of nuclear graphiteTo generate microstructure-based descriptions at appropriate length-scales - with quantification of damage evolution - of the salient deformation, fracture mechanisms and general mechanical properties of irradiated nuclear reactor core graphites, a novel approach to investigate local damage has been developed by the PI at the University of Bristol. This approach, and combining the outcomes with computer modelling, has the advantage of establishing a solid fundamental base for structural integrity analysis and lifetime prediction of nuclear graphite.2. Microstructure-based deformation and fracture of nuclear graphite at temperatureTo provide three-dimensional, in situ, at-temperature (over 1000 deg. C for Gen IV reactors) characterisation of the deformation and fracture of graphites using computed synchrotron X-ray micro-tomography. No such tests have been undertaken on nuclear graphite. This objective will take into account the microstructural gradient created in AGR reactors in the UK and, hence, provide direct impact on life extension decision making. Part of this work will be undertaken with Prof. Robert Ritchie at the University of California, Berkeley, U.S.3. Microstructure-based thermal creep in nuclear graphite under stressTo provide mechanistic understanding of the dimensional change of graphite overservice life, i.e. to evaluate the thermal contribution to creep of virgin and irradiation graphite under load from ambient to reactor temperature (over 1000 deg. C for Gen IV reactors). Prof. Bryan Roebuck, of the National Physical Laboratory in the UK, will provide access to equipment that allows the realisation of these investigations.4. Optimisation of project output Inputs from the above three aspects will assist in generating a revised life evaluation methodology. On completion of the project with the above three key areas addressed, mechanistic understanding of the graphite, and the class of materials it represents, will directly benefit the related academic community. Dissemination of the results at the end of the project in the form of workshops will feed the input to industry and, thus, allow direct impact on the decision making for the continued safe operation of current reactors in the UK and validation for future reactors globally
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 23/02/16