In 2011, when Japan experienced a massive tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, renewed attention to nuclear safety swept the globe. There are more than 450 nuclear reactors on the planet – many of them built more than 40 years ago, before the discovery of some of the potential environmental dangers that are known today. Many of Japan’s nuclear reactors, for example, were built in the 1970’s and are perched on the coast.
With an increased focus on nuclear safety, research has turned toward the development of accident tolerant nuclear fuels. Testing these fuels, however, is difficult. Current methods put a fuel into a test reactor, irradiate it for a period of time, take it out, and evaluate it, providing a limited amount of data exclusively from the end points of the experiment. Continue reading