Materials for Sustainable Nuclear Energy: A European Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for All Reactor Generations
Nuclear energy is presently the single major low-carbon electricity source in Europe and is overall expected to maintain (perhaps eventually even increase) its current installed power from now to 2045. Long-term operation (LTO) is a reality in essentially all nuclear European countries, even when planning to phase out. New builds are planned. Moreover, several European countries, including non-nuclear or phasing out ones, have interests in next generation nuclear systems. In this framework,
... rials and material science play a crucial role towards safer, more efficient, more economical and overall more sustainable nuclear energy. This paper proposes a research agenda that combines modern digital technologies with materials science practices to pursue a change of paradigm that promotes innovation, equally serving the different nuclear energy interests and positions throughout Europe. This paper chooses to overview structural and fuel materials used in current generation reactors, as well as their wider spectrum for next generation reactors, summarising the relevant issues. Next, it describes the materials science approaches that are common to any nuclear materials (including classes that are not addressed here, such as concrete, polymers and functional materials), identifying for each of them a research agenda goal. It is concluded that among these goals are the development of structured materials qualification test-beds and materials acceleration platforms (MAPs) for materials that operate under harsh conditions. Another goal is the development of multi-parameter-based approaches for materials health monitoring based on different non-destructive examination and testing (NDE&T) techniques. Hybrid models that suitably combine physics-based and data-driven approaches for materials behaviour prediction can valuably support these developments, together with the creation and population of a centralised, "smart" database for nuclear materials.