During an accident in a nuclear reactor, a strong energetic interaction between reactor coolant and structural materials occurs. Such an aggressive energetic interaction is the root of most transient structural problems by which reactor design and safety systems are largely influenced. By limiting our perspective to individual disciplines, we will never be able to comprehensively understand these safety issues, unnecessarily relying on empiricism that slows down the introduction of new fuel designs with years of exhaustive experiments. Our research team's multidisciplinary expertise in both material mechanics and thermal hydraulics has afforded a new insight that has led to scientific discoveries on thermal shock of materials and flow accelerated corrosion – both of which have significant ramifications for reactor safety and design.
Spent nuclear fuels experience deformation, stress, temperature, and hydrogen precipitation changes, all of which lead to time-varying structural integrity of the cladding material. Our research team is conducting both experimental and computational studies to understand key spent fuel behavior during dry-storage. By doing so, we are expecting to contribute to the dry-storage design, management protocols, and regulatory guidelines.
Throughout the history of Light Water Reactor (LWR) development, we have been striving to increase the reactor power density. While increasing power density has been a key direction of the LWR core design, it has impacted the reactor safety by making reactors rely on Emergency Core Cooling Systems (ECCS) during accidents. In our research team, we are revisiting the LWR core power density and developing a LWR core that never melts in accidents.