RF Luther; ME Petrichek
This is a summary of the refractory metal processing experienced by candidate Prometheus materiats as they were fabricated into specimens destined for testing within the JOYO test reactor, ex-reactor testing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), or testing within the NRPCT. The processing is described for each alloy from the point of inception to the point where processing was terminated due to the cancellation of Naval Reactor's involvement in the Prometheus Project. The alloys included three tantalum-base alloys (T-111, Ta-10W, and ASTAR-811C), a niobium-base alloy, (FS-85), and two molybdenum-rhenium alloys, one containing 44.5 w/o rhenium, and the other 47.5 w/o rhenium. Each of these alloys was either a primary candidate or back-up candidate for cladding and structural applications within the space reactor. Their production was intended to serve as a forerunner for large scale production ingots that were to be procured from commercial refractory metal vendors such as Wah Chang.
Prior to the restructuring of the Prometheus Program, the NRPCT was tasked with delivering a nuclear space reactor. Potential NRPCT nuclear space reactor designs for the Prometheus Project required dissimilar materials to be in contact with each other while operating at extreme temperatures under irradiation. As a result of the high reactor core temperatures, refractory metals were the primary candidates for many of the reactor structural and cladding components. They included the tantalum-base alloys ASTAR-811C and Ta-10W, the niobium-base alloy FS-85, and the molybdenum base alloys Moly 41-47.5 Rhenium. The refractory metals were to be joined to candidate nickel base alloys such as Haynes 230, Alloy 617, or Nimonic PE 16 either within the core if the nickel-base alloys were ultimately selected to form the outer core barrel, or at a location exterior to the core if the nickel-base alloys were limited to components exterior to the core. To support the need for dissimilar metal joints in the Prometheus Project, a co-extrusion experiment was proposed. There are several potential methods for the formation of dissimilar metal joints, including explosive bonding, friction stir welding, plasma spray, inertia welding, HIP, and co-extrusion. Most of these joining methods are not viable options because they result in the immediate formation of brittle intermetallics. Upon cooling, intermetallics form in the weld fusion zone between the joined metals. Because brittle intermetallics do not form during the initial bonding process associated with HIP, co-extrusion, and explosive bonding, these three joining procedures are preferred for forming dissimilar metal joints. In reference to a Westinghouse Astronuclear Laboratory report done under a NASA sponsored program, joints that were fabricated between similar materials via explosive bonding had strengths that were directly affected by the width of the diffusion barrier. It was determined that the diffusion zone should not exceed