GRAPHITE OXIDATION AND DAMAGE UNDER IRRADIATION AT HIGH TEMPERATURES IN AN IMPURE HELIUM ENVIRONMENT
Goodwin, Cameron Slack
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The High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) is a Generation IV reactor concept that uses a graphite-moderated nuclear reactor with a once-through uranium fuel cycle. In order to investigate the mechanism for corrosion of graphite in HTGRs, the graphite was placed in a similar environment in order to evaluate its resistance to corrosion and oxidation. While the effects of radiation on graphite have been studied in the past, the properties of graphite are largely dependent on the coke used in manufacturing the graphite. There are no longer any of the previously studied graphite types available for use in the HTGR. There are various types of graphite being considered for different uses in the HTGR and all of these graphite types need to be analyzed to determine how radiation will affect them. Extensive characterization of samples of five different types of graphite was conducted. The irradiated samples were analyzed with electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, x-ray diffraction, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and gas chromatography. The results prove a knowledge base for considering the graphite types best suited for use in HTGRs. In my dissertation work graphite samples were gamma irradiated and also irradiated in a mixed field, in order to study the effects of neutron as well as gamma irradiation. Thermal effects on the graphite were also investigated by irradiating the samples at room temperature and at 1000 °C. From the analysi of the samples in this study there is no evidence of substantial damage to the grades of graphite analyzed. This is significant in approving the use of these graphites in nuclear reactors. Should significant damage had occurred to the samples, the use of these grades of graphite would need to be reconsidered. This information can be used to further characterize other grades of nuclear graphite as they become available.