Studies on Molten Salt Fuels: Properties, Purification, and Materials Degradation

dc.contributor.authorPark, Jaewooen
dc.contributor.committeechairZhang, Jinsuoen
dc.contributor.committeememberCorcoran, Sean G.en
dc.contributor.committeememberLin, Fengen
dc.contributor.committeememberLiu, Yangen
dc.contributor.departmentMechanical Engineeringen
dc.description.abstractThe molten salt reactor (MSR) is one of the advanced nuclear reactors expected to be alternatives to the conventional water-cooled nuclear reactor systems. Despite many advantages of MSRs, properties of molten salts have not been sufficiently measured in previous studies. In addition, the corrosion of structural alloys by molten salt is the biggest challenge for the operation of MSRs. This study focuses on measurements of thermophysical and thermodynamic properties of fluoride salt fuels, salt purification, and the degradation of structural materials in static and flowing molten-salt fuels. For the measurements of properties, phase transition, specific heat capacity, vapor pressure, contact angle on nuclear-grade graphite, and density were measured. The methodologies for the property measurements used in this study were validated by measuring the properties of metals or salts that have been well studied. For the flow-induced corrosion tests, the salt flow with different velocities was simulated by rotating the stainless steel 316H (SS316H) specimens in molten NaF-KF-UF4 (FUNaK) contained in glassy carbon crucibles at 1073 K. Salt samples were intermittently collected to monitor concentration changes of corrosion products in the salt, and surfaces and cross-sections of post-test SS316H specimens were analyzed to study their corrosion behaviors. Different batches of FUNaK were synthesized using different methods of purification, such as thermal purification, U-metal purification, and hydrofluorination with electrochemical purification (chemical purification) to study impacts of salt purification on the corrosion of SS316H. The corrosion test of SS316H by thermally purified FUNaK showed that the Fe concentration increased at the beginning and then decreased while the Cr concentration continued increasing while the rate decreased. In addition, (Cr, Fe)7C3 layers, Cr-metal particles, and dendritic structures concentrated with Cr and Fe were observed on the glassy carbon crucible after the 2 m/s test. The U-metal purification and hydrofluorination with electrochemical purification reduced concentrations of oxygen and hydrogen in FUNaK and mitigated the corrosion of SS316H significantly. The infiltration of the fluoride fuel salts into graphite and the fluorination of graphite by the salts at different pressures and temperatures were also studied. The salt infiltration into graphite at pressures above its threshold pressure was observed, and the formation of carbon fluorides on the surface of post-test graphite specimens was identified.en
dc.description.abstractgeneralAs conventional water-cooled nuclear power systems showed safety issues, the Generation IV International Forum was established to expedite the development of next-generation nuclear reactor systems. Among the six advanced nuclear reactors, the molten salt reactor (MSR) stands out for its remarkable technical advantages, including low operating pressures and increased efficiency resulting from higher operating temperatures compared to water-cooled nuclear systems. Despite their advantages, further studies need to be conducted to develop and operate MSRs, as properties of molten salts have not been comprehensively measured in previous studies, and the corrosion of structural materials by molten salt is a significant challenge to their operation. The corrosion of alloys by molten salt can be attributed to many different factors, and the level of impurities in salt is an important factor directly linked to corrosion. Thus, the purification of salt is imperative to mitigate the corrosion of MSRs and needs to be well studied. In this study, methodologies for measuring thermophysical and thermodynamic properties of fluoride fuel salts were developed and validated using reference data. In addition, the corrosion of stainless steel 316H (SS316H) in a flowing fuel salt was also studied. Although various corrosion tests with static molten salts have been conducted, studies on corrosion of alloys in flowing molten salt fuels containing uranium fluorides are still limited. This study addresses this gap by developing a test apparatus equipped with a rotating disk to simulate the flow of molten salt on the surface of alloy specimens. Different batches of fuel salts with varying impurity levels, especially oxygen and hydrogen, were prepared using different purification methods. These salts were then used for corrosion tests under the same conditions, such as temperature and time duration, to explore the impacts of the non-metallic impurities on the corrosion of SS316H. The findings revealed that the salts with lower levels of oxygen and hydrogen caused less corrosion of SS316H, underscoring that the purification of salt is indispensable to the mitigation of corrosion in MSRs. This study also explored interactions of molten-salt fuels with graphite which is a promising candidate for a moderator or reflector of MSRs for enhancing neutron economy for thermal nuclear reactors. A high-pressure graphite-infiltration test apparatus was developed to investigate infiltration of fluoride fuel salts into graphite and the fluorination of graphite.en
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsIn Copyrighten
dc.subjectMolten-salt fuelen
dc.subjectmolten-salt property measurementsen
dc.subjectsalt purificationen
dc.subjectmolten-salt materials degradationen
dc.titleStudies on Molten Salt Fuels: Properties, Purification, and Materials Degradationen
dc.typeDissertationen Engineeringen Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen of Philosophyen


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