The third iteration of the Mechanistic Understanding of Zirconium Corrosion (MUZIC-3) consortium held its first conference of 2020 in Switzerland this January. The aim of the consortium is to enable the sharing of research amongst peers, in order to improve our understanding of the corrosion of zirconium alloy within a nuclear reactor. The countries that currently take part in MUZIC-3 are Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.
Within many water-cooled nuclear reactors, the cladding that surrounds the fuel is typically made from a zirconium alloy (zircaloy). Its low thermal neutron absorption cross section allows for a relatively unhindered reaction within the reactor over other materials. However, coolant water is constantly needed to maintain safety and as a means to generate electricity. Like iron, zirconium alloy corrodes, particularly in water. Understanding this mechanism is the principle goal of MUZIC-3 in order to produce a solution for the next generation of reactors where fuel will be expected to remain within the core for longer periods of time without the need for changing.
The January meeting was held at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland where Dr Simon Middleburgh and Gareth Stephens attended, representing Bangor University. The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) “is the largest research institute for natural and engineering sciences within Switzerland”. The institute conducts research in many areas where you can learn more clicking here. One particularly impressive areas of research is conducted using the synchrotron pictured below.
The large doughnut shaped building above houses the synchrotron where is many as 21 experiments can be conducted at a given time with scope for an increase in this. More information can be found here. Below is an image of PhD student, Gareth Stephens posing in front of a scale model building of the synchrotron.