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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M018369/1
Title: From Processing to Simulated In-Reactor Performance of Zr Cladding.
Principal Investigator: Preuss, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Quinta da Fonseca, Professor J Frankel, Dr PG Jimenez-Melero, Dr E
Pimblott, Professor SM
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Amec Foster Wheeler UK Rolls-Royce Plc (UK) Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited
Department: Materials
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 17 March 2016 Ends: 16 March 2020 Value (£): 491,287
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
28 Jan 2015 UK India Civil Nuclear Energy 3 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Nuclear energy will play a critical role in the future of secure, affordable and low-carbon power generation. The UK is committed to a greenhouse emissions target of 80% of pre-1990 levels by 2050 and as part of this, between now and then, it is likely that the percentage of power generation via nuclear will have to increase by somewhere between two- and three-times.

The vast majority of nuclear power is generated by light water nuclear reactors. These use cladding made from various types of zirconium alloy to contain ('clad') nuclear fuel, creating a barrier between highly active fuel/fission products and the coolant. Zirconium is considered an ideal material for this purpose, as it has excellent corrosion resistance properties and a small neutron cross section, meaning that it has a low rate of neutron absorption. These properties make zirconium alloys fundamentally more suitable than many other materials in reactor conditions.

There is still much more to be learnt about the behaviour and durability of zirconium alloys, in order to enhance their performance and the efficiency of nuclear power generation. If we gain further understanding about how these materials behave in a nuclear reactor, we can more accurately predict the 'life' of the clad and even develop new, more sophisticated alloys - advancements which can minimise new nuclear waste production and further enhance fuel and reactor safety.

Zirconium alloy research is therefore at the heart of nuclear power generation and safety. Within this context, this project aims to develop increased understanding in the field of zirconium processing and its relationship to in-reactor performance. The UK-India Civil Nuclear Collaboration is an on-going initiative to promote cooperative research in the area of nuclear energy, and this Phase III project builds upon a highly successful project undertaken in Phase I. The previous collaboration, between the University of Manchester and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in India, made significant developments in the understanding of zirconium alloys, through both experimental and modelling work. This work has already had direct relevance to, and application by, the nuclear industry.

This project aims to directly follow-on from this work, adopting a 'cradle-to-grave' approach intended to gain further understanding about the in-reactor performance of zirconium, including how the initial 'processing' of the material might impact on its properties. The proposed work will again be carried-out with partners at BARC, as well as at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR).

Once new hypotheses about zirconium are developed, including potential new alloy compositions, these must be thoroughly tested in reactor conditions before real-world application. This is a costly and time-consuming process, with few test reactors available to researchers and the costs/experimental difficulties associated with working on radioactive material. Partly in response to this, nearly £30m has been invested into the development of the University of Manchester's Dalton Cumbrian Facility (DCF), designed to allow research on irradiated and activated materials.

DCF will enable the other key aspect of this project: the development of novel experimental set-ups (pioneered at the University of Michigan) at both DCF and IGCAR. These experiments will allow the investigation of material degradation during irradiation, mimicking the conditions experienced in reactors without producing radioactive samples, and so drive forward accurate, practical understanding of zirconium performance, enhancing efficient, safe nuclear power generation.

This project brings together outstanding capabilities and expertise from the UK (Manchester and Sheffield) and India (BARC and IGCAR), enabling a unique research programme that will have impact for the nuclear industry and research, as well as helping to develop new experimental techniques for the field.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk