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Material Requirements and Perspectives for Future Thermonuclear Fusion Reactors

A. Donato, R. Andreani

Fusion Science and Technology

Volume 29 / Number 1 / January 1996 / Pages 58-72


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The design and construction of a fusion reactor represent a very difficult challenge from the viewpoint of developing materials that will allow fusion to be realized as an economic, safe, and environmentally acceptable energy source. In fact, the operating conditions of fusion reactor components will require the use of materials capable of safely sustaining thermal, mechanical, and irradiation loads never met in the past while at the same time producing negligible amounts of radioactivity and radioactive waste. An overview is presented of the development status and the perspectives of austenitic stainless steels, martensitic stainless steels, vanadium alloys, and fiber-reinforced ceramic composites (SiC/SiC), which are the materials currently being investigated for fusion reactor application. Limitations and possibilities of their use with reference to both the next experimental reactor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and the future Demonstration Reactor (DEMO) are examined. While for the experimental reactor ITER, research is directed toward the optimization of existing materials like austenitic steels, for future commercial reactors, ceramic matrix composites appear to offer enormous potential as a structural material because of their high-temperature properties, low density, low thermal expansion, and very low neutron activation.

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