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New Concrete for Nuclear Power Plants
March 27, 2014   
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Polish researchers are starting work to modernize concrete barriers used for protection against ionizing radiation—technology used in the construction of nuclear power plants, radioactive waste disposal facilities and cancer hospitals.

The zl.3.2 million project—which is being carried out by experts from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Fundamental Technological Research in Warsaw, the National Center for Nuclear Research in ¦wierk near Warsaw, the Institute of Ceramics and Building Materials in Warsaw and the Hydrobudowa-1 company—will prove useful to companies that are preparing to build Poland’s first nuclear power plant.

The main objective of the project is to develop a new production technology for concrete shielding with increased functionality. The concrete could be used for the construction of specialized shields for protection against ionizing radiation used in nuclear power plants, radioactive waste disposal facilities, isotope laboratories, oncology hospitals and medical and industrial accelerators. As a result of the research, technical guidelines and assessment criteria will also be developed to upgrade existing standards and regulations in the field.

While developing the new technology for the production of concrete, the experts will examine and improve the ingredients and process conditions for preparing the mix and for the maturing of concrete. They will also focus on other factors including the microstructure and mechanical properties of different types of concrete, as well as the shielding properties of concrete for different types of ionizing radiation.

The scientists will use the Maria nuclear research reactor located in ¦wierk near Warsaw. They will test the changing properties of shielding concrete under intensive gamma radiation and neutron radiation exposure. For comparison, they will collect and analyze samples from the now-decommissioned Ewa research reactor, which operated in ¦wierk for over 30 years. Based on the results of the laboratory tests and computer simulations, the researchers will select concrete recipes for industrial-scale testing.

Concrete is the primary construction material for ionizing radiation barriers. Interest in research on the impact of ionizing radiation on the stability and properties of concrete grew after publications on unexpected damage to a nuclear power plant in Seabrook, Canada, and quality defects during construction work on the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Finland.

The project, called “Stability and efficiency of concrete shielding against ionizing radiation in nuclear power facilities,” has a total budget of zl.3.17 million and is being financed to the tune of zl.3 million by the National Center for Research and Development under the Applied Research Program. The project coordinator is Prof. Michał A. Glinicki from the Institute of Fundamental Technological Research, while Michał A. Gryziński, Ph.D., is responsible for the research part of the project handled by the National Center for Nuclear Research. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016.
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