Irradiation to Slow Corrosion of Alloys Used for Molten Salt Reactors

An ORNL researcher holds a capsule of molten salt. Preliminary experiments seem to indicate that irradiation can slow corrosion of metal in liquid salt. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Irradiation may slow corrosion of alloys in molten salt, a team of Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists has found in preliminary tests.

The researchers put samples of stainless steel and a nickel-based alloy in capsules in the Ohio State University Research Reactor and exposed them to a molten chloride salt with simultaneous neutron irradiation. In their experiment, steel that was irradiated in molten salt showed less corrosion than samples that went through the same environmental treatment but without irradiation.

Though a small sample size was used in the study, further research could support their findings and inform future molten salt reactor designs.

“These types of irradiation experiments help ORNL generate data directly impacting material selections for reactor designers,” said ORNL’s Dianne Ezell. “This could be a significant step in overcoming one of the largest hurdles for molten salt reactors.”

Neutron irradiation of alloy N and 316L stainless steel in contact with a molten chloride salt. Nuclear Engineering and Technology. 8 August 2020.

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