News Release

Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, June 2007

Peer-Reviewed Publication

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

ENERGY -- New life for reactors

Comprehensive risk analysis provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers plays a crucial role in keeping billions of dollars of electricity generation on line – without compromising safety. In the absence of license renewal, more than 40 percent of the nation’s 104 nuclear power plant licenses will expire by 2015. The replacement cost value of electricity generation capacity being submitted by industry in 2007-2008 for 20-year extensions is close to $20 billion, according to Richard Bass of ORNL’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division. The major concern is pressurized thermal shock, caused by either a rapid temperature or pressure change in the reactor vessel. This combined with the fact reactor vessels become embrittled over time increases the potential for a pre-existing crack to propagate through the vessel wall, causing failure. Using advanced risk-assessment engineering technologies and high-performance computing resources, ORNL provides the technical basis for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to set standards used in the license renewal process. This research is funded by the NRC. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

NANOSCIENCE -- A clean suite

In the mesoscale, or typical, world, machines are assembled a piece or component at a time. In the nanoscale world, molecular machines essentially have to grow themselves into useful configurations. The new Nanofabrication Research Laboratory at The Department of Energy’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak ridge National Laboratory has a clean room suite of instruments where researchers have already begun experiments to coax atoms and molecules to arrange into predictable and replicable configurations. The controlled-environment laboratory has some of the world's most advanced equipment for lithography, etching and analysis. The specialized tool set is helping researchers bridge the gap between the mesoscale and nanoscale. The nanoscience center research is supported by DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences. [Contact: Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399;]

MATERIALS -- Super stainless steel

A new type of stainless steel alloy developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could allow for significantly increased operating temperatures and corresponding increases in efficiency in future energy production systems. The new alloys offer superior oxidation resistance compared to conventional stainless steels, without significant increased cost or decreased creep resistance (sagging at high temperature). What sets this proprietary material apart from other stainless steels is its ability to form protective aluminum oxide scales instead of chromium oxide scales. The combination of creep and oxidation resistance offered by these alloys previously was available only with nickel-base alloys, which are about five times more costly than the new stainless steels. This material also has potential applications in high-temperature (up to 800 degrees Celsius) chemical and process industry applications. The material was reported on in the April 20 issue of Science. Funding for this research was provided by the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, Advanced Research Materials Program. Additional funding was received from DOE’s Distributed Energy Program, the Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering, Office of Basic Energy Sciences and the SHaRE User Facility. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENERGY -- Wet, warm wall worries

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory study shows that a newly redesigned generation of Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, or EIFS, walls perform better than several other wall types tested for moisture and thermal performance. EIFS walls use foam insulation, fiberglass mesh and performance-engineered coatings as an alternative to various other cladding systems. ORNL researchers teamed with construction industry EIFS partners to develop "water management systems" that greatly improve durability, moisture management and thermal performance of the EIFS walls. The 15-month ORNL study conducted in the Southeast showed EIFS outperformed walls made of brick, stucco, concrete block and cement board in moisture protection and temperature control. The data are being used to benchmark a computer simulation, called a hygrothermal model, to predict wall thermal and moisture performance. The work is funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the non-profit EIMA Industry Members Association. [Contact: Mike Bradley, (865) 576-9553;].


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