Department of Physics and Materials Science Seminar Nuclear Power, Friend or Foe? Prof WOO Chung-ho Chair Professor of Solid-State Electronics, Department of Electronic and Information Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University Date: 31 May 2012 (Thursday) Time: 3:30 pm (tea reception: 3:15 pm) Venue: B6605 (CSE Conference Room) Academic 1 City University of Hong Kong Enquiry: 3442-7787 Nuclear Power, Friend or Foe? Prof WOO Chung-ho Chair Professor of Solid-State Electronics, Department of Electronic and Information Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University ABSTRACT Energy is fundamental to social and economic development. As global population grows, the demand for energy consumption escalates. The everlasting pursuit of better health, longevity, economic growth and comfortable life puts mounting pressure on the natural resources and energy consumption. Fossil fuels have been our major sources of energy, but their production is peaking. Intensive burning over the years has also been causing adversaries in global warming. There is little doubt that nuclear energy is a necessary component of our future energy mix. Due to the complexity of technology involved and the grave consequences of a nuclear mishap, expertise in the science and engineering of nuclear reactors is an absolute necessity for the utilization of nuclear energy for human benefit. The central task of operating a nuclear reactor is to keep its temperature, pressure and neutron field under control so that a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at steady fission rate can be maintained to produce a stable power output. Failure to control these parameters could cause serious damage to the containment and reactor structures with disastrous consequence. Systems required to support this central task include, the fuel, the neutron control, the cooling and heat transport, the waste disposal and the reactor structure maintenance. Insufficient understanding of the complex behavior of these highly interactive systems can lead to system instability and potentially dangerous situations. A subtle problem often neglected is that fast-neutron bombardments in nuclear reactors typically occur at a hit rate of hundreds of billions per second per cm3. They create “local explosions” in which nano-scale localities in in-reactor components are raised to temperatures of tens of thousands of degrees. These highly heated regions cool down quickly within pico-seconds, “quenching-in” lattice defects. Given the small tolerance of the reactor structure, the associated dimension changes, fracture resistance degradation, and accelerated corrosion can seriously affect the safe and efficient operation of nuclear reactors, and is a particularly serious problem for aging reactors, despite the most careful and competent reactor operation. These issues will be introduced in the present talk. Short CV for Prof C. H. Woo Professor Woo graduated from The University of Hong Kong in Applied Math, got his PhD in Theoretical Solid-State Physics from Univ. of Waterloo, and was awarded the higher doctorate degree of D.Sc. from HKU in the field of materials science and engineering. He was with Atomic Energy of Canada for over 20 years, and was one of the highest-ranking scientist before returning to Hong Kong in 1996. He joined The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where he has been Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and is now Chair Professor of Solid-State Electronics since 2005. His main research interest is in the thermal-mechanical behavior of materials for nuclear and electronic applications.
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