Inspection Techniques for Determining Graphite Core Deterioration for Nuclear Applications

  • Sarah Penny

Student thesis: Phd


Graphite bricks make up a significant part of the core of an Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR). The graphite moderates the neutrons vital to the continuation of the fission chain reaction and provides support and stability for the entire core. During operation, the graphite can be oxidised due to the extreme conditions inside the core and so undergo weight loss. Differential shrinkage caused by neutron interaction throughout the brick can also cause radial cracking to occur. The effects of the oxidation, weight loss and cracking reduce the ability of the graphite to function as a moderator. The effects also have the potential of reducing the structural integrity of the brick, causing movement and structural instability of the entire core. It is, therefore, vital to monitor the condition of the graphite bricks and to understand how the changes in the graphite's properties and structure may affect the safe operation of the reactor.This report firstly looks briefly at the effect of irradiation on the graphite brick; the mechanisms leading to weight loss and cracking. The report then considers various methods which can be used to inspect the deterioration of graphite blocks within the cores of AGRs deriving quantitative and qualitative information on density and crack profiling. These methods will be considered for use both on small samples trepanned from the core and in-situ blocks within the reactor core, requiring non-destructive techniques. The inspection methods considered in this report are: Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT); Four point probes; Eddy Current Tomography; and Electromagnetic Inductance Tomography (EMT).There are two main contributions of this thesis. First, the development an EIT methodology using outward facing probes, which were best suited to the geometry of the graphite bricks within the AGR. Proof of principle was established using both modelling and laboratory testing. The second contribution is the development of commercial grade EMT equipment, which can be used on-site to determine the conductivity of trepanned samples. The method was successfully demonstrated in the laboratory; however, further development will be required for use on-site, due to the sampling speed required.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Armitage (Supervisor)


  • Electromagnetic Induction Tomography
  • Electrical Impedance Tomography
  • Non-destructive testing
  • Graphite

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