MYRRHA (Multi-purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications) is a flexible fast-spectrum research reactor under design at SCK•CEN, the Belgian Nuclear Research Center in Mol. MYRRHA is a pool-type reactor with Lead Bismuth Eutectic (LBE) as the primary coolant.
Operating in subcritical mode, MYRRHA allows research on transmutation of nuclear waste, reducing the longevity and radiotoxicity of the waste for long-term storage.
One of the big challenges in MYRRHA is the loading and unloading of the fuel into the reactor core, submerged in a liquid metal coolant. The hostile environment necessitates the use of robotic systems for fuel handling and maintenance activities. However, corrosion and embrittlement from the liquid metal, high temperatures and lack of lubrication combine to make very unfavourable operating conditions for the mechanical components in these robotic arms.
SCK•CEN has extensive experience with research on the behaviour of materials and mechanical systems in LBE. The Université de Namur has a state of the art surface analysis lab at its disposal and has in-depth experience with the application and analysis of coatings for improving wear and corrosion resistance. This PhD seeks to combine these strengths to enhance the lifetime of robotic systems in MYRRHA, by using coatings to improve the wear properties of mechanical systems in a liquid metal environment. It will include the selection of coatings and base materials, testing of material compatibility and wear properties in LBE and analysis and optimization of coating types and coating methodologies, enabling the long-term use of robotic systems submerged in LBE.