Nuclear graphite research and development activities have been ongoing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory since the 1940s and are summarized below:
- 1942 Manhattan Project, X-10 Reactor at Clinton Engineering Works (ORNL)
- 1940s-1980s - Supported Production Reactors at Hanford WA
- 1950s-1970s - Aircraft Reactor, Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE), Experiment Graphite Reactor (EGR)
- 1960s-1980s-High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) [Dragon, Peach Bottom (GA)] and Large HTGR [Fort St. Vrain (GA)]
- 1980s-1990s-Modular High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (MHTGR); New Production Reactor (NPR) – a variant of the MHTGR; Gas Turbine-Modular Helium Reactor (GT-MHR)
- 2000 onwards-Gen IV Reactor Concepts, Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR) - a GT-MHR or PBMR, called the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) in the USA.
The Carbon Materials Technology Group is a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers engaged in research and development of carbon and graphite materials ranging from adsorbent carbons, fibers, graphite, nuclear graphite, carbon-carbon composites, and carbon/graphite foams. The group’s involvement in nuclear graphites spans the history of ORNL. Between the late 1980s and the turn of the century the Carbon Materials Research Group has performed development work in support of the USDOEs gas cooled reactor projects. These have included the GT-MHR, The NPR, and the US/Russian Modular High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor. More recently, the Carbon Materials Technology Group has been directly involved in the Gen-IV, Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) graphite technology development program. Group members have been responsible for developing the NGNP graphite selection and acquisition strategy, and group members have participated in defining the graphite technology needs for the NGNP. Moreover, group members have been involved in acquiring irradiation effects data, and conducting mechanical and physical property tests, and oxidation studies on current nuclear graphites grades (including NBG-10, -17, and -18). Recently, Carbon group staff members were involved in the development of an improved TRISO fuel compacting methodology based on the (A3 matrix overcoating process) for the NGNP program. Group members hold leadership positions in key professional societies relevant to nuclear graphite, including being the current chair of the: Graphite Working Group (Gen IV International Forum, Project Management Boards-Materials); ASTM D02.F Committee on Manufactured Carbons and Graphites; ASTM D02F sub-committee on Nuclear Graphites; ASME SG on Graphite Core Design; and memberships of the American Carbon Society Executive and Advisory Board.