Study calls for long-term national research program to study nuclear fuels' behaviour

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 09, 2012 12:40 hrs

A study has called for an ambitious, long-term national research program to study nuclear fuels' behaviour under the extreme conditions present during core-melt events like those that the Fukushima disaster following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami

Scientists and engineers remain largely in the dark about how nuclear fuels behave under extreme conditions even after a year of Fukushima nuclear disaster, a University of Michigan study has claimed.

Three of the plant's six boiling-water reactors had suffered partial core-melt events that involved tremendously high temperatures and powerful radiation fields and interaction between seawater and nuclear fuel.

"What I realized while watching all of this was how little we actually knew about what happens if you take hot seawater and pour it on nuclear fuel," Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences Professor Ewing said.

The use of seawater at Fukushima highlights the need for fundamental nuclear-fuel knowledge that can be applied over a range of unanticipated situations, Ewing said.

He added that research should include studies of the various radioactive materials released from damaged fuel during a core-melt incident, as well as a thorough examination of how nuclear fuel interacts with fresh water and seawater.

He said it was the right decision to use seawater to cool crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors after the March 11 disaster.

The authors of the study note that the "studies outlined here are both difficult and expensive, but are essential to reduce the risk associated with an increasing reliance on nuclear energy."(ANI)

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