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Reducing the Cobalt Inventory in Light Water Reactors

Howard Ocken

Nuclear Technology

Volume 68 / Number 1 / January 1985 / Pages 18-28


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Reducing the cobalt content of materials used in nuclear power plants is one approach to controlling the radiation fields responsible for occupational radiation exposure; corrosion of steam generator tubing is the primary source in pressurized water reactors (PWRs). Wear of the cobalt-base alloys used to hard-face valves (especially feedwater regulator valves) and as pins and rollers in control blades are the primary boiling water reactor (BWR) sources. Routine valve maintenance can also be a significant source of cobalt. Wear, mechanical property, and corrosion measurements led to the selection of Nitronic-60/CFA and PH13-8 Mo/Inconel X-750 as low-cobalt alloys for use as pin/roller combinations. These alloys are currently being tested in two commercial BWRs. Measurements show that Type 440C stainless steel wears less than the cobalt-base alloys in BWR feedwater regulator valves. Sliding wear tests performed at room temperature in simulated PWR water showed that Colmonoy 74 and 84, Deloro 40, and Vertx 4776 are attractive low-cobalt hardfacing alloys if the applied loads are ≾103 MPa. The cobalt-base alloys performed best at high loads (207 MPa). Ongoing laboratory studies address the development and evaluation of cobalt-free iron-base hardfacing alloys and seek to improve the wear resistance of cobalt-base alloys by using lasers. Reducing cobalt impurity levels in core components that are periodically discharged should also help reduce radiation fields and disposal costs.

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