Professor Blanchard, along with Carl Martin, Todd Allen, and several students, is studying fuel forms suitable for use in gas fast reactors. It is believed that the traditional TRISO fuels will not work at the high temperatures desired for future gas fast reactor applications, so we are studying other fuel/coating combinations from a thermomechanical perspective. We are considering UN and UC for the fuel and ZrN, ZrC, TiN, TiC, and SiC as possible coating materials. Our goal is to assess the mechanical performance of the possible combinations one might consider for the fuel form and determine whether any look particularly promising. This work is funded by INL.
- Thermomechanics of Candidate Coatings for Advanced Gas Reactor Fuels (to be published in Journal of Nuclear Materials)
Fission Plant Life Extension
Professor Blanchard is also interested in plant life extension for fission reactors. Many operating reactors in the U.S. will have to be re-licensed if they are to operate into the next century. A key aspect of this effort is the integrity of the reactor vessel, given the radiation damage produced over the previous 30 years. Professor Blanchard and his students are presently involved in estimating the damage produced in existing reactor vessels and assessing the ability of the vessel to withstand further damage. This requires detailed neutron transport calculations, coupled with predictions of the changes in the properties of the steel vessels, particularly in the vicinity of welds.