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Nastasi earns grant to develop nuclear reactor metal-ceramic composite via PHYS ORG

Mike Nastasi, director of the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, had one of 13 projects selected recently by the U.S. Department of Energy to improve nuclear reactor safety, performance and cost competitiveness.

Nastasi received a $980,000 DOE grant for the project exploring development of advanced metal and ceramic composites that could lead to safer and more efficient electricity production in advanced nuclear reactors. He will team up with researchers at MIT and Texas A&M to develop the material.

“We will use an interesting feature we observed when I was at Los Alamos (National Laboratory), where the interface between two different types of materials is actually an excellent sink for absorbing radiation defects,” Nastasi said. “If you have a material in a reactor, a fuel pin, uranium oxide and the fuel cladding — the structural material holding the pin — it needs to have mechanical properties, and not break under the environment of the generating energy. During the fission process, energetic particles — neutrons — are made that sustain the reaction and also disrupt the local atomic arrangement. That damages the material and can make the material brittle so it doesn’t have the same mechanical characteristics it had when it started.”

If the pin loses its mechanical abilities, a catastrophic failure can occur in the reactor, Nastasi said. The fuel rod needs to be able to sustain its mechanical integrity throughout its entire lifetime.

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