Nuclear Fuel, Cladding, and the “Discovery” of Zirconium

  • Thomas Filburn
  • Stephan Bullard


Zirconium cladding played an important role in both the Fukushima and TMI accidents. As nuclear reactors increased in size and power, metallic cladding materials were needed to protect fuel elements. Initially, aluminum and stainless steel were used, but neither of these materials is ideal for use in the high temperature, high radiation environments of nuclear reactors. Zirconium was identified as a potential “miracle” cladding material because it maintains its characteristics at high temperatures and is very corrosion resistant. At 0.185 b, zirconium also has a very low neutron absorbing cross-section. Unfortunately, zirconium is not perfect. At very high temperatures, zirconium reacts with steam to generate heat and to produce hydrogen gas. Both of these attributes can have major negative impacts during nuclear emergencies.


Fuel Element Reactor Core Zirconium Alloy Neutron Absorption Fuel Pellet 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Filburn
    • 1
  • Stephan Bullard
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of HartfordWest HartfordUSA
  2. 2.Hillyer CollegeUniversity of HartfordWest HartfordUSA

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