Nuclear power is the electrical power generated by a nuclear reactor by fission (or fusion) of atoms. The energy released in fission is in the form of heat and is used to heat up water to steam which in turn drives a turbine to produce electricity[ www.edfenergy.com/energyfuture/nuclear
]. Nuclear power accounts for about 13% of the world’s power as of 2012 and is a reliable source of electricity[ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1359645412007987
] with around 30 countries using it though only France, Slovakia and Belgium rely on it as their primary source of electricity (i.e., more than 50%)[ http://www.greenbang.com/which-countries-use-the-most-nuclear-power_21769.html
]. There are a number of materials challenges which nuclear power faces some of which are summarized here along with the materials used in the main operating components. Next Generation Nuclear Power is called Generation IV and these power plants are currently only planned and not operational but should be up and running by 2030 according to some estimates.
There are three types of materials used in all nuclear power generation are[ http://www.nrc.gov/materials.html
Special Nuclear Material - consists of 233U and 235U, or enriched plutonium and uranium. 233U and plutonium do not occur naturally but are instead formed in nuclear reactors and must be extracted from the highly radioactive spent fuel via chemical separation.
Source Material - Natural thorium or uranium or even depleted uranium that is considered unsuitable for use as reactor fuel. Source material sometimes results from the milling and concentration of uranium from its ore ( these ores are used for their relatively high am...
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...in nuclear power rely on the development of better materials and more efficient fuels and processes for advanced reactor systems. The major challenges in terms of materials requirements are development of a real accurate model to understand the multiple physics phenomena in a reactor and thereby predict radiation hardening and degradation, nuclear fuels innovations with improved accident tolerance, and the development of understanding of the mechanisms of corrosion and stress corrosion. In this essay, the various fabricability aspects of the materials required has not been covered. Lack of extreme condition testing centres hinders appropriate testing and evaluation of materials. However, innovative techniques are a prerequisite for developing the materials needed in Generation IV nuclear reactors which are, in turn, necessary for clean energy and a sustainable future.
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