EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T003359/1
Title: Development of versatile liquid metal testing facility for lead-cooled fast reactor technology
Principal Investigator: Cioncolini, Dr A
Other Investigators:
Iacovides, Professor H Laurence, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Eng
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 January 2020 Ends: 31 December 2022 Value (£): 376,416
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 May 2019 NEUP Phase 5 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Liquid-metal-cooled nuclear reactors are advanced nuclear reactor designs where the primary coolant is a liquid metal, such as sodium, lead or a lead-bismuth mixture. The excellent heat transfer properties of liquid metals, and the possibility to operate liquid metal reactors at ambient pressure and very high temperature, are the main advantages of liquid metal cooled reactors with respect to water-cooled reactor designs. These advantages result in smaller and much safer reactor designs, particularly suited for small-modular construction.

Originally developed for marine propulsion, liquid-metal-cooled nuclear reactors are currently being investigated for power production. In particular, two out of the six nuclear reactor designs identified by the Generation IV International Forum and currently being researched for near-term commercial application are liquid metal reactors: the sodium-cooled fast reactor and the lead-cooled fast reactor.

The present research study, in particular, is focused on the lead-cooled fast reactor technology. Lead-cooled nuclear reactors will be deployed in small and modular units featuring long-life, pre-manufactured cores that can run for several years before being replaced, thus making these reactors also suitable for emerging and developing countries that do not plan to build their own nuclear infrastructure. The excellent heat transfer capabilities of liquid lead, together with its high boiling point, assure that decay heat after reactor shutdown can be safely dissipated with entirely passive means, thus resulting in a particularly safe nuclear reactor design. Lead is also very dense and therefore a good shield against gamma radiations, which is a bonus for protecting the operators and the environment. Unlike sodium that burns in contact with air and that can explode in contact with water, lead does not react significantly with either air or water, allowing simpler and cheaper system design and a safer plant operation.

Currently, the main drawback of the lead-cooled nuclear reactor technology is the very limited knowledge of erosion and corrosion of materials exposed to liquid lead at temperatures representative of nuclear reactor operation. This is the knowledge gap that the present research aims to address: erosion and corrosion tests will be carried out in liquid lead at nuclear reactor operating conditions to identify the most promising materials to realize the reactor structural components. High-fidelity CFD simulations of the experimental setup, will first assist with the design of the experimental facility and then provide the missing information on the local flow and thermal fields, necessary to fully understand the implications of the experimental data and apply the experimental findings more widely to corrosion/erosion analysis of lead-cooled reactors.

Additionally, the present research will also develop an imaging technology based on ultrasounds to inspect the reactor internals during operation. Liquid metals, in fact, are opaque and conventional imaging techniques therefore not applicable. The possibility to periodically inspect the reactor internals is essential for safe and profitable operation.

Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk