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Title: The performance of a nuclear fuel-matrix material in a sealed CO₂ system
Author: Turner, Joel David
ISNI:       0000 0004 2733 7228
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2013
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An advanced concept high temperature reactor (HTR) design has been proposed - The ‘U-Battery’, which utilises a unique sealed coolant loop, and is intended to operate with minimal human oversight. In order to reduce the need for moving parts within the design, CO2 has been selected as a candidate coolant, potentially allowing a naturally circulated system. HTR fuel is held within a semi-graphitic fuel-matrix material, and this has not previously been tested within a CO2 environment. Graphite in CO2 is subject to two oxidation reactions, one thermally driven and one radiolytically. As such, the oxidation performance of fuel-matrix material has been tested within CO2 at both high temperatures and under ionising radiation within a sealed-system. Performance has been compared to that of the Gilsocarbon and NBG-18 nuclear graphite grades. Gilsocarbon is the primary graphite grade used within the currently operating AGR fleet within the UK, and as such is known to have acceptable oxidation performance under reactor conditions. NBG-18 is a modern graphite grade, and is a candidate material for use within the U-Battery. Virgin characterisation of all materials was performed, including measurements of bulk mass and volume, skeletal volumes and surface areas. High-resolution optical microscopy has also been performed and pore size distributions inferred from digital image analysis. All results were seen to agree well with literature values, and the variation between samples has been quanti- fied and found to be < 10% between samples of Gilsocarbon, and < 4% for samples of fuel-matrix and NBG-18. Thermal performance of fuel-matrix material was observed between 600 °C – 1200 °C and seen to be broadly comparable to that of the nuclear graphite grades tested. NBG-18 showed surprisingly poor performance at 600°C, with an oxidation rate of 3×10−4%/min, approximately ten times faster than Gilsocarbon in similar conditions, and three times faster than fuel-matrix material. The radiolytic oxidation performance of fuel-matrix material and NBG-18 has been observed by irradiating sealed quartz ampoules. Ampoules were pressurised with CO2 prior to irradiation, and the pressure after 30 days of irradiation was measured and seen to fall by 50%. Radiolytic oxidation, and the subsequent radiolysis of the reaction product, CO, was seen to cause significant carbonaceous deposition on the internal surfaces of the ampoule and throughout the samples. Due to the short irradiation times available in the present study, an investigation of the microporosity within irradiated samples has been carried out, using nitrogen adsorption and small-angle neutron scattering (SANS). Pore size distributions produced from SANS show the closure of microporosity within NBG-18, most likely as a result of low-temperature neutron irradiation.As a result of this work, CO2 is no longer a candidate coolant for use with the U-Battery design, due to the rapid deposition observed following irradiation.
Supervisor: Marsden, Barry; Abram, Timothy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nuclear Graphite ; Oxidation ; High Temperature Reactor ; TRISO