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Testing nuclear reactor components for defects at a nanoscale level

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. In the United States, about 17 percent of our energy comes from nuclear power, so it's critical to ensure that we have a reliable and safe source. Nuclear engineers and material scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are working with the Los Alamos and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories on a technique to safely test irradiated materials for defects at a nanoscale level.

Hosemann:    What we just saw recently in Japan for example, it's pretty important that we keep our power plants safe and reliable and operating as they were the last forty years, for the next decades.

Narrator:       Nuclear engineer Peter Hosemann says he and his colleagues are using a powerful electron microscope to look for deformation in the components of reactors that have been exposed to radiation.

Hosemann:    Our research is focusing on long-term reliability of materials used in nuclear power plants, of lifetime extension — can we run them longer? 

Narrator:       Their technique also lessens the amount of test samples needed, which is safer when it comes to researchers handling materials. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.