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Measurement of Silver Diffusion in VHTR Graphitic Materials

Thomas R. Boyle, Robert V. Tompson, Sudarshan K. Loyalka, Tushar K. Ghosh, Michael L. Reinig, Jr.

Nuclear Technology / Volume 183 / Number 2 / August 2013 / Pages 149-159

Technical Paper / Fission Reactors/Materials for Nuclear Systems /

Very high temperature reactors (VHTRs) and high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) can develop extreme temperatures in excess of 900°C that make them theoretically very efficient, potentially in the range of 45% to 50%. The high temperatures, however, can also lead to a corresponding increase in fission product transport out of the fuel, which is potentially a source term-related safety issue. The aim of this work was to develop a repeatable, accurate, and cost-effective process to measure the diffusion coefficients of fission products in graphitic VHTR materials, particularly those materials used in the fabrication of TRISO [tristructural isotropic] fuel pellets. Specifically, this work has focused on the diffusion of silver in graphite. We constructed graphite cells that could be filled with a silver diffusant in the form of silver flakes, silver powder, or a preloaded, silver-laden graphite powder. The cells were hermetically sealed and heated to temperatures comparable to those that will be found in VHTRs. After being kept at various amounts of time and temperature, these cells were imaged using microtomography and electron microscopy. Concentration profiles were measured by sectioning the heat-treated cells and analyzing them using neutron activation analysis. Estimated diffusion coefficients for silver in a commercial grade of graphite are reported, but the method is easily adapted to any grade of graphite material including nuclear grades and to a variety of other fission product species.

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