UoM administered thesis: Unknown

  • Authors:
  • William Bodel


In addition to its role as moderator within British nuclear reactors, polycrystalline graphite is also a major structural component of the core, enabling access for control rods, coolant gas and fuel. Aging processes, primarily fast neutron irradiation and radiolytic oxidation lead to distortion of the graphite components and property changes which ultimately reduce the material's effectiveness and can lead to component failure.Despite much research into the material, graphite behaviour under irradiation conditions is not fully understood and has resulted in an overestimation of the extent of component failures in Magnox reactors, and a subsequent underestimation of component failures in the following generation Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs). A greater understanding of the material is therefore required in order to make more informed evaluations as part of on-going safety cases.Young's modulus is one property which varies as a complex function of radiolytic oxidation and fast neutron irradiation dose; this work investigates investigate the Young's modulus behaviour of nuclear grade graphites through property measurement and microstructural characterisation. Physical properties are dependent on microstructure, which is in turn a result of the manufacturing processes and raw materials used in its fabrication. Because of this, this thesis begins with a microstructural study of AGR graphite artefacts from varying points during the manufacturing process and post-irradiation, utilising X-ray diffraction to observe changes in crystallinity, microscopy to directly observe the microstructure and pycnometry to gauge porosity variations. Increases in crystallinity towards graphitisation are seen, with a subsequent decrease after irradiation; and significant changes are observed from inspection of optical and scanning electron micrographs.Young's modulus property data are obtained using a combination of static and dynamic techniques to accumulate data from a variety of techniques. An experiment designed to track changes to the speed of sound under compressive load was carried out on Magnox and AGR graphite, showing different behaviour between the grades, and variation with irradiation.A final series of tests combine compressive testing with in-situ microscopy to try and better understand the reasons behind this varied in behaviour and relate microstructural changes to graphite behaviour under compressive loading.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2013