London, April 1 : Scientists have determined that by adding diamond nanoparticles to the water of the secondary cooling system in a nuclear reactor, the system's ability to transfer heat can be dramatically improved.
According to a report in New Scientist, nuclear plants can fail when the heat from the reactor is not removed quickly enough from the core. This can happen in pressurised water nuclear reactors if the water in the cooling system boils, because steam is a much poorer conductor of heat than liquid water.
These reactors have a primary water-cooling system that directly takes heat away from the reactor. It is sealed under huge pressure to prevent it from boiling and conducts heat to a secondary water-cooling system that is not sealed.
But this secondary system is also at risk of boiling. If that happens, heat builds up in the primary cooling system, which can lead to a meltdown.
Now, Ronald Baney and colleagues at the University of Florida in Gainesville, have developed a hypothesis to tackle this problem by turning to diamond - one of the best heat conductors known to science.
Their idea is to add diamond nanoparticles to the water of the secondary cooling system to dramatically improve its ability to transfer heat.
According to Baney and colleagues, such nanoparticles are chemically inert and radiation resistant, so are unlikely to clump together in a way that could block the cooling system.