The designs of nuclear-fission and fusion power plants do not, in general, appear to make unusual demands on materials in terms of mechanical-property requirements. Superficially, the needs of the designer can be met by commercially available alloys. However, the radiation environment produces unique effects on the composition, microstructure, and defect population of these alloys, resulting in time-dependent and time-independent changes in mechanical properties. These changes must be quantified for the designer.
To illustrate these problems, the materials needs of the core of a Liquid-Metal Fast-Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) and of the first wall of a fusion reactor are discussed. In the case of the LMFBR core, the phenomenon of void swelling causes serious design problems, and a search is being made for a low-swelling alloy that has adequate mechanical properties. The fusion reactor poses different problems because the neutron energy is high (14 MeV) and is accompanied by a high flux of charged particles. The long-term choices for a wall material have been narrowed to vanadium and niobium alloys.
In the search for low-swelling alloys, it has become clear that minor elements play an important role in determining the nature of the radiation effects. The segregation of minor elements to void surfaces and the dispersion and reformation of second-phase precipitates are two important radiation-induced phenomena that require additional study in view of their vinfluence on void swelling and high-temperature properties.
KeywordsNeutron Flux Fuel Element Fuel Assembly Fusion Reactor Austenitic Steel
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