In a free public seminar at 3:30 PM on February 6, in room 1115 of the Wisconsin Energy Institute, UW–Madison assistant professor of engineering physics Adrien Couet will give a talk on materials for advanced nuclear reactors.
Because of the looming 21st century energy crisis, the materials science community is currently re-establishing its fascination with nuclear materials to support the development of improved generation III (Gen III) nuclear reactors and meet the challenges of designing future Generation IV (Gen IV) systems. Although research support in that area varies from a country to another, a number of developed and developing countries are focusing a greater proportion of their strategic funding on nuclear science and engineering projects. Progress is definitely required to further our understanding of materials for existing systems in order to extend the original designed lifetime and ensure safety of current nuclear power plants. That includes support for current reactor designs, which are now revealing unexpected degradation processes and failure mechanisms. On the other hand, immediate and near-term programs for building new reactor designs (Gen IV) are considered game changers for the energy crisis of this century. However, all these promising novel nuclear reactor designs pose greater material challenges because of the even more extreme conditions in which we are aiming to operate. The main challenges are associated with being able to predict and understand changes in material’s performance and structure in response to ionizing and energetic radiation, coupled with high temperature, while in contact with chemically aggressive environments. To overcome these difficulties and participate to the energy crisis’ solutions, research in nuclear materials is critically needed in area such as understanding material’s behavior under extreme conditions and design of innovative solutions.