The Design and Integration of an In-Situ Proton Irradiation Tensile Rig
One of the biggest challenges faced in the nuclear industry is understanding and accurately predicting the complex environment found in a nuclear power reactor and its impact on core components and materials. The extreme environment inside a reactor core provides challenges to component design and operation as the large amounts of radiation experienced by reactor components begins to fundamentally change the otherwise well understood material properties. At the Reactor Material Testing Laboratory (RMTL) at Queen’s University, a high energy proton accelerator is used to simulate the neutron damage found in a nuclear reactor and conduct experiments to develop a mechanistic understanding of irradiated material samples and their changing material properties. This Thesis details the design and integration of an in-situ proton irradiation tensile rig (PITR) at the RMTL facility. The purpose of this apparatus is to provide the means of systematically exploring degradation phenomenon of reactor materials in controlled single variable experiments. The results from these studies will lead to an improved understanding of irradiation behavior of materials and ultimately help lead to the development of improved safety and efficiency for current and future reactors. After evaluating the reliability and accuracy of each individual system and component of the PITR, a proof of concept experiment was conducted to demonstrate its capability of conducting an in-situ proton irradiation tensile test. A 75 µm thick pure zirconium foil was irradiated at a damage rate of 1.37 × 10-7 dpa/s, a constant temperature of 350 °C, and a constant applied stress of 30 MPa. The resulting strain rate was compared against that of an identical sample held at the same temperature and applied stress without the applied proton beam. The sample subjected to proton irradiation was found to have a much higher strain rate for the given parameters than the non-irradiated sample.