Mechanisms of radiation damage and properties of nuclear materials

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Materials Research Society
A wide range of materials are currently under consideration for use in advanced nuclear fuel cycle applications. The effects of radiation on these materials by exposure to external neutron irradiation and internal alpha and beta decay processes may have significant effects on the physical and chemical properties. This is especially true for materials that are subject to hundreds of displacements per atom during their service life. In this paper, we explore some of the radiation damage mechanisms prevalent in oxide based materials, including mathematical models and other concepts of amorphization (e.g., percolation), the role of defects on picosecond time scales, and longer term effects such as diffusion and recrystallization. As radiation "tolerance" or the ability of a material to maintain crystallinity under intense irradiation is a key issue for many fuel cycle applications, we will briefly review and comment on some of the underlying factors that have been identified as important in driving the short-term damage recovery. These include aspects of the structure (e.g., connectivity, polyhedral distortion), bonding, energetics of defect formation and migration, and melting point and similar criteria. The primary materials of interest here are those under development as special purpose nuclear waste forms, novel materials for separations, inert matrix fuels, and transmutation targets. In this context, we will illustrate the behavior of simple oxides and several more complex oxides such as perovskite, multicomponent fluorite systems, and related derivative structures (e.g., pyrochlore and zirconolite). The damage mechanisms in these materials are briefly compared with those of intermetallic and metallic materials.
Ceramics, Radioactive wastes, Radiation effects, Transmutation, Irradiation, Defects
Lumpkin, G. R., Smith, K. L., Whittle, K. R., Thomas, B. S., & Marks, N. A. (2009). Mechanisms of radiation damage and properties of nuclear materials. Paper presented to the 2009 MRS Fall Meeting - "Materials Research Needs to Advance Nuclear Energy (Symposium V)", 30th November – 4th December 2009. Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America: Hynes Convention Center. In Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings, 1215, 19-26. Warrendale, Pennsylvania, United States of America: Materials Research Society.