How Prolonged Radiation Exposure Damages Nuclear Reactors


New Texas A&M research might help design more radiation-tolerant structural parts for safer and more efficient nuclear reactors.

New research from Texas A&M University scientists could help boost the efficiency of nuclear power plants in the near future. By using a combination of physics-based modeling and advanced simulations, they found the key underlying factors that cause radiation damage to nuclear reactors, which could then provide insight into designing more radiation-tolerant, high-performance materials.

“Reactors need to run at either higher power or use fuels longer to increase their performance. But then, at these settings, the risk of wear and tear also increases,” said Karim Ahmed, assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. “So, there is a pressing need to come up with better reactor designs, and a way to achieve this goal is by optimizing the materials used to build the nuclear reactors.” The results of the study are published in the journal Frontiers in Materials.

According to the Department of Energy, nuclear energy surpasses all other natural resources in power output and accounts for 20% of the United States’ electricity generation. The source of nuclear energy is fission reactions, wherein an isotope of uranium splits into daughter elements after a hit from fast-moving neutrons. These reactions generate enormous heat, so nuclear reactors parts, particularly the pumps and pipes, are made with materials possessing exceptional strength and resistance to corrosion.

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