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Nano and New Materials for Advanced Nuclear Energy Applications John E. Marra, Ph.D. Associate Laboratory Director Savannah River National Laboratory 2010 Ohio Innovation Summit Columbus, OH – April 20-21, 2010 Disclaimer

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nano and new materials for advanced nuclear energy applications

Nano and New Materials for Advanced Nuclear Energy Applications

John E. Marra, Ph.D.

Associate Laboratory Director

Savannah River National Laboratory

2010 Ohio Innovation Summit

Columbus, OH – April 20-21, 2010

  • The views and opinions presented are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the US Department of Energy or Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC.
global demand doubles by 2030
Global Demand Doubles by 2030

[Source – United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, “International Energy Outlook 2009,” DOE/EIA-0484 (May 2009), see]

the nuclear renaissance must provide i ntegrated solutions that
The Nuclear Renaissance Must Provide Integrated Solutions that …

Add MWe on the grid

Economically attractive reactor power systems

Economically attractive nuclear cogeneration and process heat systems

In a way that addresses the traditional ‘barriers’ to nuclear energy implementation

Safety (or perception thereof)

Capital cost


Waste Management (i.e., sustainable fuel cycles)

nuclear energy in the obama administration
Nuclear Energy in the Obama Administration
  • ‘But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.’
  • President Obama from the State of the Union,
  • January 27, 2010
  • ‘President Obama and I are committed to restarting the nuclear industry in the United States.’
  • Secretary Chu at the American Nuclear Society Meeting,
  • November 16, 2009
us doe nuclear energy program
US DOE Nuclear Energy Program
  • Greater Energy Security in a Safer, Cleaner World
  • Imperatives in advancing nuclear energy
    • Extend life of existing fleet
    • Enable new builds
    • Transform the industrial and transportation sectors
    • Develop sustainable fuel cycles
    • Manage proliferation risk

A science-based, results-oriented R&D program

a new framework


Electricity, process heat


Geologic disposal of used fuel


Ore recovery, refining and enrichment

Electricity, process heat

Modified Open

Geologic disposal of spent fuel


Geologic disposal of process waste


Ore recovery, refining and enrichment

Fuel treatment

Fully Closed (Full Recycle)

Electricity, process heat


Geologic disposal of process waste


Ore recovery, refining and enrichment


A New Framework
  • No recycling or conditioning of used fuel
  • Low uranium utilization
  • Limited used fuel conditioning or processing
  • High uranium utilization and burn-up (used fuel is spent fuel)
  • Multiple reprocessing steps and transmutation of actinides
  • ‘Complete’ uranium utilization
materials advancements
Materials Advancements
  • Materials critical throughout nuclear fuel cycle
    • From fuel/target processing to waste remediation & immobilization to close the fuel cycle
  • Materials capable of incorporating a variety of radionuclides
    • Ceramic- and glass-based waste forms are durable and can be economically produced
  • Next-generation nuclear facilities will require high-performing materials
    • Reduce capital costs, improve operating parameters, etc.
advanced materials are key enablers
Advanced Materials are Key Enablers
  • Major Areas of Application
    • Nuclear Power
      • Fuel, target, and cladding materials
      • Reactor vessels & components
    • Fuel Cycle Closure
      • Reprocessing operations
      • Waste forms
        • Glass
        • Ceramics
        • Cement
        • Alloys
      • Geologic disposal
nuclear energy imperatives 1
Nuclear Energy Imperatives (1)

Extend life, improve performance, and sustain health and safety of current fleet – THE bridge to a low-carbon future

Extend life beyond 60 years

Enable power up-rates

Manage SNF inventories







Number of Reactors or

Electricity Production














challenges facing the current fleet
Challenges Facing the Current Fleet
  • The aging fleet has issues in the following areas:
    • Aging and degradation of passive components
      • Reactor pressure vessel, concrete, buried pipes, cables etc.
      • Industry is driving the fleet harder through power up-rates.
    • Fuel reliability and performance issues
      • Fuel burn-up has limited room to increase in context of current materials performance.
    • The instrumentation and control systems rely on obsolete analog technologies
    • Design and safety analysis tools were built in 1980’s
      • Plant-aging effects were not taken into considerations.
      • Existing tools have low fidelity and limited capabilities.
    • Waste legacy is the most critical issue for nuclear energy in terms of public perception and acceptance.
fuel target and cladding materials
Fuel, Target, and Cladding Materials
  • Nuclear fuels generate power from heat produced from nuclear fission and radioactive decay
    • Ceramics are baseline technology
      • High melting temperatures
      • Chemical compatibility
      • Resistant to corrosion
      • Easily fabricated by conventional cold pressing and sintering techniques
    • Advanced cladding materials (nano-derived alloys or ceramics) to allow ‘deeper burn,’ higher temperatures, etc.  increased efficiency
advanced fuel materials
Advanced Fuel Materials
  • Next generation reactor systems are utilizing advanced non-oxide ceramic materials
    • Carbides and nitrides have had extensive application in conventional reactor systems
  • Inert Matrix Fuels (IMFs) being designed to burn excess Pu in conventional reactor systems
    • Fabrication is difficult using conventional processing methods
advanced materials and supporting data are required for transmutation fuels to reach high burn up
Advanced Materials and Supporting Data Are Required For Transmutation Fuels to Reach High Burn-up

The effects of fast flux neutron irradiation on the properties of core reactor materials under prototypical conditions of irradiation temperature and flux are key needs

Near-term needs:

Withstand a fluence up to 200 dpa to achieve ~20% burn-up

Irradiation Temperature 360-625ºC

Traditional Materials: F/M steels such T91, HT-9 and 316L

Longer term

Go to greater than 20% burn-up (greater than 200 dpa)

Increase temperature (greater than 625ºC)

Requires advanced materials

ODS strengthened F/M steels –MA-957, 14YWT, 12YWT

New Materials?

nuclear energy imperatives 2
Nuclear Energy Imperatives (2)

Improve affordability of nuclear power – enable new builds

Provide loan guarantees

Partner with NRC to develop confirmatory analysis capabilities for advanced reactors to support NRC design certification, plant licensing, and operating regulatory oversight

Develop affordable LWR SMR (Gen-IV) power systems

Reduce incremental cost of nuclear capacity additions

Develop “Transitional LWR” (Gen-IV) power systems

100+ yr license

~25% reduction in capital cost per kW and operating cost

Significantly lower SNF volume and SNF actinide content

Blank-sheet-of-paper assimilation of lessons-learned, modern materials, and innovative NSSS and BOP system architectures

construction materials for current reactor designs
Construction Materials for Current Reactor Designs

Despite considerable differences in operating parameters, there are common material uses between LWR and SFR applications

improved materials may allow improved performance
Improved Materials May Allow Improved Performance
  • Several key requirements drive development
    • Economy: reactor technology must be economically competitive
    • Flexibility: A number of different missions may be required (power generation, process heat, isotope burning.
    • Safety: Both inherent safety features and defense in depth will be required.
  • Choosing the right materials can impact all three factors.
    • Economy: reduce capital costs through reduced commodities and simplifications
    • Flexibility: higher material performance allows greater options to designers
    • Safety: higher material performance promotes larger safety margins and more stable performance over longer lives
nuclear energy imperatives 4 sustainable fuel cycles
Nuclear Energy Imperatives (4) – Sustainable Fuel Cycles

Manage and disposition the LWR SNF we have

Challenge the assumption that nuclear energy = 100,000+ year waste problem

Develop fuels, reactors, and fuel cycles that produce lessSNF and lower long-lived actinide concentrations in SNF

Develop reactors that transmute the SNF / actinide waste we have and that we will produce

Improve fuel cycle economics

The principal obstacle to closing the fuel cycle

Address front-end and back-end

Integrate uranium management and re-use

Recycling Can Greatly Reduce Long-term Radiotoxicity of Nuclear Waste … But is not the Only Consideration

Relative Radiotoxicity

Pu, U, & MA


Used Fuel

~300,000 Years

~300 Years

~10,000 Years

Natural Uranium Ore

U & Pu


Time (years)

LWR Fuel 50 GWd/MT, 5 Years Cooling

addressing legacy newly generated wastes
Addressing Legacy & Newly Generated Wastes
  • Metals, ceramics, glasses, glass-ceramics, and cements are key materials for closure of the fuel cycle
    • Manufacturing processes are straightforward and simple with equipment well-suited for remote application
    • Microstructures capable of incorporating a variety of radionuclides
    • Final structures are stable and durable – exceeding all performance standards for interim and long-term storage
    • Behavior can be understood through closely-coupled theory, experimentation, and modeling
waste form s t of specific materials
Waste Form S&T of Specific Materials
  • Borosilicate glass and alloys have been widely used to stabilize nuclear wastes
  • Advanced wasteforms with enhanced properties needed for next-generation applications
    • Structure and chemistry
    • Phase transitions as a function of temperature and radiation field
    • Chemical durability over a range of conditions (thermodynamic and kinetic studies)
    • Corrosion mechanisms and rates
    • Mechanical properties
    • Response to radiation

 Ability to sequester radionuclides of interest over geologic timescales

federal repository
Federal Repository
  • Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (as amended in 1987) governs the permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste
    • Disposed of underground, in a deep geologic repository
    • Yucca Mountain in Nevada identified by NWPA as potential site
  • New ‘Blue-Ribbon’ Commission
  • Nuclear power offers several significant advantages towards reduction of GHG emissions and energy independence
    • Provides ‘base-load’ power
    • Cost competitive over the long-term
    • Reactors can be sized for multiple uses
      • Grid appropriate
      • Load following
  • Addressing key issues of capital cost, waste management, and proliferation will require advances in materials performance
  • Materials advances play critical role toward achieving goal of nuclear renaissance
    • Faster, cheaper reactor construction – improved fabrication
    • Improved in-reactor performance – ‘deep burn’ scenarios
    • Fuel cycle closure
      • ‘Designer materials’ for separating and sequestering radionuclides – targeted toward long-life
summary and conclusions
Summary and Conclusions
  • The world is faced with a set of challenges related to energy supply, and global climate change
  • Nuclear power provides a sustainable energy source
    • Nuclear power is a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ technology
  • Nuclear renaissance requires resolution of critical issues associated with safety, cost, waste management, and proliferation
  • Is this the ‘last, best chance?’