New EPSRC grants to test materials for next-generation nuclear fission reactors

Aerial photograph of Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station 2014 (John Fielding)

Confirming Oxford University as one of the key UK players in nuclear energy materials R&D, Associate Professor Felix Hofmann (Department of Engineering Science), and Associate Professor David Armstrong (Department of Materials) have both been awarded prestigious EPSRC grants to work with US partners to address some of the key material challenges for the successful development of molten salt or liquid lead cooled reactors.

Two reactor types have been proposed that have the potential to offer dramatically improved efficiency over current water-cooled reactors nearing end of life in the UK: Liquid lead (Pb) and lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE) cooled fast reactors, or molten salt cooled reactors. However, for decades now the development of these reactors has been at a standstill because of concerns about the corrosion these high temperature liquid coolants would cause in the structural materials used. These Oxford led grants both aim to accelerate the understanding of the specific corrosion mechanisms, which are very different to those in more common water cooled reactors and develop new materials to operate in these extreme conditions.

For further information see the Engineering Science news item