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Overview of Nuclear Graphite R&D in Support of Advanced Reactors with Dr. Windes


April 5, 2023

As arguably the very first nuclear reactor core material, graphite has been utilized in a variety of nuclear applications since Enrico Fermi first stacked up bricks of graphite in a university squash court. But why? Graphite is not the first material that comes to mind when considering the extreme environment anticipated within a nuclear core. Materials with high strength, toughness, hermeticity, and hardness are traditional material choices for this demanding application. Graphite exhibits only moderate, or even low, values for these material properties. This presentation will address these issues and attempt to demonstrate that graphite is nearly the perfect material choice for these (Very) High Temperature Reactor designs. The latest information on graphite’s unique crystal structure and bulk microstructure which provide the desired properties, the (baffling) irradiation behavior, the expected response to anticipated degradation, and how the nuclear graphite community is establishing the operational safety envelop of the core components within these new advanced reactor designs will be discussed. We’ll finish up with a short demonstration of why nuclear graphite cannot burn (No, Chernobyl graphite fires did not happen).

Who should attend: policymakers, managers, regulators, students, general public

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