NOMAD develops techniques to monitor vessel steel closely


From 13 to 15 June, SCK•CEN gathered partners of the European research project ‘NOMAD’ to discuss details of the following steps. The project contributes to the European ambition of safeguarding the safety and reliability of nuclear reactors from second and third generations.

There are currently almost 200 working nuclear reactors in Europe. Following the decision of several European countries to extend the operation of nuclear plants, the safety of those reactors became a priority for Europe. “After some time, the vessel steel alters due to nuclear radiation. It is therefore important to perform research on these alterations to be able to predict them properly. This is the reason why the Horizon2020 project NOMAD was created”, states Madalina Rabung (Fraunhofer IZFP), coordinator of the NOMAD project.

NOMAD was launched in June 2017 and gathers a multidisciplinary team consisting in ten partners from seven different countries to develop an innovative assessment system which would give us a better understanding of the current state of materials in the individual nuclear reactors. The project contributes to the ambition of the European Union of safeguarding the safety and reliability of nuclear reactors from second and third generations. “We will develop a technology in which we will expose samples, made from the same material as the reactor’s vessel, to realistic irradiation conditions and test new assessment techniques. By working with samples, we can then remove them at set times and in doing so perform controls on a more regular basis.” We are hoping to later measure within the reactor’s vessel thanks to this technology.

First test at SCK•CEN

SCK•CEN, member of the NOMAD project, invited its partners from 13 to 15 June 2018 on its premises in Mol to lay down the first steps of the tests. These tests will take place in the facilities of SCK•CEN. “SCK•CEN will supply, select and test the different types of vessel steel. We will simulate the irradiation conditions of existing nuclear reactors in our research reactor BR2 to study the end-of-life materials”, explains Inge Uytdenhouwen (SCK•CEN).

After the meeting, the partners visited the Laboratory for High and Medium Activity (LHMA), where irradiated reactor materials and fissile materials are scrutinized in shielded cells. “During the project, the irradiated vessel steel materials will be subjected to the new assessment techniques, more specifically non-destructive testing”, highlights Inge. “Destructive testing means that we study how materials properties alter by breaking samples. Non-destructive testing, on the other hand, is the use of other techniques such as electrical and ultrasonic waves which allow us to study the samples without damaging them. The advantage of such techniques is that we will be able to check the reactor vessel wall directly and everywhere.”


Horizon 2020 project
The project has received funding from the Euratom Research and Training Programme 2014-2018 under grant agreement No. 755330.