skip to main content

Title: Initial assessment of environmental effects on SiC/SiC composites in helium-cooled nuclear systems

This report summarized the information available in the literature on the chemical reactivity of SiC/SiC composites and of their components in contact with the helium coolant used in HTGR, VHTR and GFR designs. In normal operation conditions, ultra-high purity helium will have chemically controlled impurities (water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, hydrogen) that will create a slightly oxidizing gas environment. Little is known from direct experiments on the reactivity of third generation (nuclear grade) SiC/SiC composites in contact with low concentrations of water or oxygen in inert gas, at high temperature. However, there is ample information about the oxidation in dry and moist air of SiC/SiC composites at high temperatures. This information is reviewed first in the next chapters. The emphasis is places on the improvement in material oxidation, thermal, and mechanical properties during three stages of development of SiC fibers and at least two stages of development of the fiber/matrix interphase. The chemical stability of SiC/SiC composites in contact with oxygen or steam at temperatures that may develop in off-normal reactor conditions supports the conclusion that most advanced composites (also known as nuclear grade SiC/SiC composites) have the chemical resistance that would allow them maintain mechanical properties atmore » temperatures up to 1200 1300 oC in the extreme conditions of an air or water ingress accident scenario. Further research is needed to assess the long-term stability of advanced SiC/SiC composites in inert gas (helium) in presence of very low concentrations (traces) of water and oxygen at the temperatures of normal operation of helium-cooled reactors. Another aspect that needs to be investigated is the effect of fast neutron irradiation on the oxidation stability of advanced SiC/SiC composites in normal operation conditions.« less
  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
RC0106090; NERC015
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
Gas-cooled reactors; silicon carbide; ceramic matrix composites; chemical environment