In Russia, a new alloy for the fabrication of the major components of equipment for nuclear power plants. New material and its production process developed by scientists at Tomsk State University (TSU) in collaboration with experts Chepetskiy Mechanical Plant (CMP), the only Russian producer of zirconium tubes for nuclear reactors.
Inside the reactors are fuel elements (cartridges) — metal pipe, which put the so-called "pill" of uranium dioxide. Pipes for fuel rods made of zirconium — it’s practically the only material that can be used in the work area. Zirconia has very low thermal neutron capture cross section and a high melting point. Therefore, the metal zirconium, hafnium containing no (chemical analogue of zirconium, whose capture cross section for thermal neutrons is more than two orders of magnitude) and its alloys are used in the nuclear industry for the manufacture of fuel rods, fuel assemblies, and other designs of nuclear reactors.
Zirconium is quite flexible, but the manufacturers is the problem of producing a thin-walled tube of length 8 m from the ingot weighing 3-4 tons. Very often the final step the product deformation process breaks. Restored or repaired it is not possible — requires remelting.
Tomsk scientists with CHEPETSKOE experts have developed a new grade of high strength and advanced technology for the production of pipes of fuel rods, which includes a number of new technological processes. Today, these pipes are used in the four nuclear power plants — two Russian and two foreign. Durability of these pipes under constant pressure and the tensile is 25% higher than the pipes manufactured from the alloys of the old formulation. Creep resistance (resistance to spontaneous elongation at high temperatures) increased by about 30%. With this fuel rods can be used not three years as it is now on most existing nuclear power plants, and within 5-6 years. In this case, the nuclear fuel is spent more efficiently.
In addition, the new alloy pipes contribute to the reliability of nuclear power plants and eliminate the recurrence of accidents that have occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and more recently in Fukushima. At both stations used tubes of zirconium.