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A neutron tomography study to visualize fluoride salt (FLiNaK) intrusion in nuclear-grade graphite

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Manufactured graphite is a preferred material for in-core components of molten salt reactors and fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors, which are in permanent contact with liquid salts. However, owing to the porous nature of nuclear graphite, under certain conditions, molten salts may intrude graphite's pores and affect graphite's properties and functionality. Therefore, a better understanding of molten salt intrusion (distribution across sample cross section and penetration depth) is needed to assess its effects. In this work, we have demonstrated the use of neutron imaging (computed tomography) in the evaluation of salt penetration and distribution of a wide range of graphite grades with diverse microstructures that have been subjected to FLiNaK (LiF–NaF–KF) intrusion at 750 °C and 5 bar pressure for 12 h. Because of the great neutron attenuation contrast from scattering and adsorption between Li (from FLiNaK) and the graphite matrix, we have obtained direct visualization of FLiNaK salt distribution in the salt-impregnated graphites for the first time. Three-dimensional reconstructed images and cross-sectional concentration profiles demonstrate that salt penetration and density distribution are greatly dependent on the microstructural properties of the graphite grade.