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Research Reactors

IAEA CRP 1575 (2009-2013)
Development, Characerization and Testing of Materials of Relevance to Nuclear Energy Sector Using Neutron Beams


Material research holds a vital importance in the future use of fission and fusion energy, and the neutron beam facilities of research reactors around the world can contribute abundantly to unlocking the potential of advanced materials under severe conditions. This Coordinated Research Project will bring together the stakeholders and end users of numerous research institutions in order to establish a global network committed to innovative experiments for the nuclear energy sector and the next generation of reactors. These advanced materials must withstand circumstances of high temperatures and pressures, intense neutron irradiation, strongly corrosive environments, the presence of magnetic and electric fields, complex loading states, and cyclic operation histories in order for safe and reliable reactor operation.

From 2006 to 2008, several technical and consultancy meetings were organised by the IAEA to discuss the future of materials research for the nuclear energy sector and the role to be played by research reactors. The participants frequently agreed on the significance of neutron beam experiments to analyzing material behavior and recognized the need for international cooperation in order to bridge gaps in experience and capabilities. These ideas form the basis of this CRP, knowing that cooperation will enhance research capacity as well as standardize experimental and modelling methods.

Neutron beam facilities at research reactors have achieved many milestones directly applicable to the manipulation of nuclear energy, and they can perform three useful procedures for advanced material research. Neutrons possess advantages by their lack of charge and unique interactions with matter, giving them deep penetration lengths in many materials without damage. Neutron diffraction can provide 3-D mapping of residual stress within a bulk component and many types of exposure studies. Small angle neutron scattering is useful for the investigation of structural inhomogeneities and changes in thin samples of solids or liquids. Finally, neutron radiography is used to study characteristics of nuclear fuel and other heavy metal samples. Dedicated in-core irradiation channels, material test loops, auxiliary facilities as hot laboratories, are often available at research reactors to provide realistic conditions for these experiments, and each member of the CRP is expected to use at least one of the techniques.

Neutron beam techniques, as a complement to non-neutron studies, will deliver analyses and characterizations of materials involved in fission reactors, fusion devices, Generation IV reactors, waste conditioning, and polymer components. A database of experimental results and exciting advances in such topics of material science as crystal, chemical, and microscopic structure, mechanical strength, anisotropy, stress, radiation resistance, and conductivity will enable the nuclear energy sector to progress toward the next generation of power plants as well as address the underutilisation of many research reactor neutron beam facilities.

Overall Objectives: This CRP will promote and establish cooperative ties among participating research reactor institutions in the use of neutron beam techniques for advanced material research necessary for the nuclear energy sector while concurrently standardizing these experimental procedures and modelling methods.

Specific Objectives: The goals include investigating and characterizing materials relevant to nuclear energy applications via neutron beam experiments, optimizing and validating experimental and modelling methods, creating a database of reference data for nuclear materials research, and enhacing the capacity of research reactors for relevant materials research.

Expected Research Output: The CRP will produce a multilateral network of scientists and facilities in the field of advanced nuclear materials research, a reference database for models and calculations, and guidelines for research reactors to be published under the Nuclear Energy series.