It’s hot in there! PNNL researchers take a close, but nonradioactive, look at metal particle formation in a nuclear fuel surrogate material. What they found will help fill knowledge gaps and could lead to better nuclear fuel designs.
Researchers used novel methods to safely create and analyze plutonium samples. The approaches could prove influential in future studies of the radioactive material, benefitting research in legacy, national security and nuclear fuels.
Pointing the finger at chemical criminals: Several scientists from PNNL and other institutions will discuss new methods and approaches at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in San Francisco April 2-6.
In fast-neutron reactors, fuel is sealed in ~7 millimeter diameter steel tubes called cladding. When a high-energy "fast" neutron strikes an atom in the steel, it can knock the atom out of place, like a cue ball striking another billiard ball. This leaves two types of damage in the metal: an empty spot where the atom was, and the displaced atom wedged between other atoms. Over time, these defects typically drive undesirable rearrangement of the microstructure, potentially reducing the life of the cladding.
On October 22, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)granted Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA's) Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station a 40-year operating license for its new Unit 2 reactor. This is the first nuclear reactor to be granted an operating license by the NRC in two decades.
Pressurized water nuclear reactors in the United States generate about 13 percent of U.S. electricity. Though efficient, these reactors face a unique challenge with stress corrosion cracking (SCC). This type of corrosion is one of the primary life-limiting degradation mechanisms of nickel-base alloy pressure boundary components, such as instrumentation and control rod nozzles, the welds that attach these nozzles to the reactor vessel, and welds that connect feedwater piping to the reactor vessel. As interest grows in a more sustainable and efficient fleet of nuclear reactors across the world, there is increasing interest in characterizing SCC initiation response.