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The increase of efficiency of energy production systems often implies an increase of the operational temperature. Accordingly, Gen IV nuclear reactors will also operate at higher temperature than Gen II and III reactors, producing steam at higher temperatures and thus requiring higher coolant temperature for a higher overall plant thermal efficiency. As an example the sodium outlet temperature in a sodium fast reactor, SFR, ~550 °C, is substantially higher than the outlet water temperature in a LWR, ~300 °C. Materials used for primary components and fuel cladding in current LWR reactor do not have enough strength, among other mechanical and physical properties, at the higher temperatures foreseen for GenIV systems, thus other materials have to be used in such reactors. Austenitic stainless steels are good candidates for cladding but their use is limited to low burn-up due to their poor resistance to radiation-induced swelling. On the other hand, ferritic/martensitic (F/M) steels are more resistant to swelling allowing higher burn-up, but their uses are limited by their lower creep resistance at 600-700 °C. Improvements on the high temperature strength of F/M steel can be achieved, while maintaining their high swelling resistance, by the addition of oxide particles of by thermo-mechanical treatments. The use of oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) alloys is currently the option for long term cladding material to achieve high burn-up values in the European fast reactor programmes.
In 2010 about 50 people and 20 PhD are working on ODS steel development in Europe within the 12 participating organizations in the EERA JPNM. Probably some other research groups focus their efforts on ODS steels as well. For intellectual property reasons, not all of those 70 people could be involved in the EERA JPNM, but good knowledge of all programs devoted to these materials is the inevitable starting point for constructive collaboration. Three FP7 European projects were and are involved in ODS development and characterization, GETMAT, MATTER and MATISSE. These projects include most of the national activities on ODS at different scales and with different objectives. The aim of this sub-programme is to coordinate the work done in these projects and to capitalize it, mainly through the prioritization of research topics, in order to optimise the use of resources and while identifying potential sources of funding through EC and industry involvement. In addition, a share of knowledge and research infrastructures will be encouraged by mobility of researchers, organization of workshops and benchmarking activities. Links with other international activities (IAEA, NEA, Fusion, Non-nuclear) will be also identified. The main scientific research lines are related to the improvement of the fabrication procedure, mechanistic understanding of the behaviour of ODS alloys at high temperature, compatibility studies with coolants and the effect of neutron irradiation on the microstructure stability and mechanical properties.