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Is It Possible to Prevent Nuclear Disaster Using Ceramics?

Pottery Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy ZSM

Pottery Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy ZSM

In the past fifty years, engineers have applied the same approach to build the rods used to holding nuclear fuel. Such rods are made of metal alloys based on zirconium. They could keep structural integrity even at high temperatures and make uranium neutrons possible to escape so as to initiate nuclear reactions. However, as we know for the case of Fukushima, this kind of rods confronts a very big disadvantage: At about 2,000°F, the stuff will rapidly react with steam in the way to release heat and hydrogen gas that can be easily ignited, thus leading to explosion.

Therefore, if we could replace zirconium-based metal alloys with Silicon carbide (SiC) ceramic rods to hold nuclear fuel, we will see some remarkable advantages as follows:

1) They are reliable like the zirconium-based rods in terms of their functions.

2) But they are not so reactive with hot water.

3) They will remain strong at 2,900°F and higher temperature.

To make use of such advantages of SiC rods, a number of companies, including Ceramic Tubular Products based in Maryland, have been trying their efforts to test SiC rods under accident conditions for the best possible solution in the future.

Source: Popular Science