Nuclear power has the potential to make a vital contribution the low carbon power generation and future fission and fusion power will be more efficient, safer and generate less radioactive waste than current technologies. Next generation nuclear power plants will, however, operate at higher temperatures and the materials used in their construction will experience significantly higher levels of radiation than current designs. It is therefore vital to thoroughly understand the effects of high radiation doses on material properties. Radiation creates defects and, over time, these defects migrate and coalesce to form voids, bubbles and dislocation loops, all of which affect the strength and performance of the materials. Radiation effects are important, not only for structural materials in fission and fusion power plants but also in nuclear fuel elements and in materials used for the long term storage of radioactive waste.
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Figure: Modelling the interaction between diamond and a tritium plasma for fusion applications. [courtesy Dorothy Duffy]