Nuclear materials

Prof. Jacqueline Lecomte-Beckers – Université de Liège
Prof. Eric van Walle – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Prof. Walter Bogaerts – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven


90 hours study time

24 contact hours theory

10 contact hours excersises/lab sessions/visits

3 contact hours personal work

Learning Outcomes

  • To assess the basic aspects of material science as they apply to nuclear systems.
  • To review the basic processes of material degradation and ageing due to the nuclear environment (radiation effects, corrosion and fatigue).


Part 1: Review of most important mechanical properties of materials ( J. Lecomte-Beckers – 1ECTS)
  • Stress-strain relationship
  • Ductile and brittle fracture; ductile-brittle transition
  • Fatigue failure
  • Creep
  • Stress analysis: stress intensity, thermal stresses
  • Swelling fatigue: due to thermal stresses and stratification
Part 2: Corrosion phenomena: (W. Bogaerts – 1 ECTS)
  • Description and occurrence
  • Electrochemical and chemical study of corrosion problems: basic equations, user diagrams and practical examples
  • Detailed study of frequently occurring corrosion types (for example pitting, IGA, SCC, ...): setting and context, explanation, influences of the environment and material properties
  • Methods of corrosion prevention and protection (design aspects, coatings, water treatment and inhibitors, electrochemical methods)
  • Effects of radiation on corrosion (for example irradiation assisted corrosion)
Part 3: Reactor pressure vessel life management (E. van Walle – 1 ECTS)
  • Radiation effects: general principles
  • Atomic displacements
  • Embrittlement
  • Material degradation issues, legal context, advanced analysis and mitigation
  • Fuel cladding and stainless steel degradation under irradiation

Visit and laboratory session to the SCK•CEN research infrastructure
  • Visit to Belgian Reactor 2 (BR2)
  • Laboratory session on mechanical testing: cold lab and hot-cells (M. Scibetta)

Course material and reference books

The PowerPoint presentations of the lectures, and extensive lecture notes, are available on the BNEN website.

Other useful references:

  • Benjamin, M., Nuclear Reactor Materials and Applications, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983
  • Glasstone, S. & A. Sesonske, Nuclear Reactor Engineering, 4-th Ed, Vol 1, Chapman & Hall, New York, 1994  (Chapter 7: Reactor Materials, pp 406-462)

Pre-assumed knowledge or prerequisites

Courses in the following field
  • Nuclear energy: introduction
  • Introduction to nuclear physics and measurements

Basic chemistry, material behaviour.

Grading and examination

  • Part 1: Oral examination with written preparation, closed book in first and second session
  • Part 2 and part 3: Oral examination with written preparation, open book in first and second session
  • The visit of BR2 and laboratory session on mechanical testing are compulsory and cannot be repeated in second session.
  • Report on the laboratory session on mechanical testing (10%)