New ceramic nuclear part ‘could prevent more Fukushimas’
American scientists say swapping a building material used in nuclear power reactors could prevent accidents like the triple blow-out at Fukushima power plant in Japan.
Researchers at MIT claim that replacing the metal cladding around fuel rods in water-cooled nuclear reactors with a special ceramic could cut the risk of explosion.
At Fukushima in 2011, the radiation leak may have been caused after explosions of hydrogen gas built up inside some of the reactors.
The hydrogen build-up was the result of hot steam coming into contact with overheated nuclear fuel rods covered by a cladding of zirconium alloy, or “zircaloy”. This is the material used as fuel-rod cladding in all water-cooled nuclear reactors. Water-cooled reactors are used at more than nine in ten of the world’s power reactors.
When it gets hot enough, zircaloy reacts with steam to produce hydrogen, a hazard in any loss-of-coolant nuclear accident, say the researchers.
They believe their alternative – a ceramic compound called silicon carbide (SiC) – could provide similar protection for nuclear fuel, while cutting the risk of hydrogen production by roughly a thousandfold. Tests of their new cladding material, are described in the journal ‘Nuclear Technology’.
Source: Energy live News