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Title: Study of Compatibility of Stainless Steel Weld Joints with Liquid Sodium-Potassium Coolants for Fission Surface Power Reactors for Lunar and Space Applications

To make a manned mission to the surface of the moon or to Mars with any significant residence time, the power requirements will make a nuclear reactor the most feasible source of energy. To prepare for such a mission, NASA has teamed with the DOE to develop Fission Surface Power technology with the goal of developing viable options. The Fission Surface Power System (FSPS) recommended as the initial baseline design includes a liquid metal reactor and primary coolant system that transfers heat to two intermediate liquid metal heat transfer loops. Each intermediate loop transfers heat to two Stirling heat exchangers that each power two Stirling converters. Both the primary and the intermediate loops will use sodium-potassium (NaK) as the liquid metal coolant, and the primary loop will operate at temperatures exceeding 600°C. The alloy selected for the heat exchangers and piping is AISI Type 316L stainless steel. The extensive experience with NaK in breeder reactor programs and with earlier space reactors for unmanned missions lends considerable confidence in using NaK as a coolant in contact with stainless steel alloys. However, the microstructure, chemical segregation, and stress state of a weld leads to the potential for corrosion and cracking. Such failuresmore » have been experienced in NaK systems that have operated for times less than the eight year goal for the FSPS. For this reason, it was necessary to evaluate candidate weld techniques and expose welds to high-temperature, flowing NaK in a closed, closely controlled system. The goal of this project was to determine the optimum weld configuration for a NaK system that will withstand service for eight years under FSPS conditions. Since the most difficult weld to make and to evaluate is the tube to tube sheet weld in the intermediate heat exchangers, it was the focus of this research. A pumped loop of flowing NaK was fabricated for exposure of candidate weld specimens at temperatures of 600°C, the expected temperature within the intermediate heat exchangers. Since metal transfer from a high-temperature region to a cooler region is a predominant mode of corrosion in liquid metal systems, specimens were placed at zones in the loop at the above temperature to evaluate the effects of both alloy component leaching and metal deposition. Microstructural analysis was performed to evaluate weld performance on control weld specimens. The research was coordinated with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where most of the weld samples were prepared. In addition, ORNL participated in the loop operation to assist in keeping the testing relevant to the project and to take advantage of the extensive experience in liquid metal research at ORNL.« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (United States)
  2. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Resource Relation:
Related Information: D.J. Rowekamp, A.V. Giminaro, and M.L. Grossbeck, “A Compact NaK Coolant Test Loop in an Argon Atmosphere,” Proceedings of Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space 2013, Albuquerque, NM, February 25-28, 2013.
Research Org:
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Country of Publication:
United States
21 SPECIFIC NUCLEAR REACTORS AND ASSOCIATED PLANTS; 33 ADVANCED PROPULSION SYSTEMS; 36 MATERIALS SCIENCE NESDPS Office of Nuclear Energy Space and Defense Power Systems; Sodium; Potassium; Space Reactor; NaK; Welding