Conference Dates

May 22-27, 2016


High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactors (HTGRs) are fueled with tristructural isotropic (TRISO) coated nuclear fuel particles embedded in a carbon-graphite fuel body. TRISO coatings consist of four layers of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide that are deposited on uranium ceramic fuel kernels (350µm – 500µm diameters) in a concatenated series of batch depositions. Each layer has dedicated functions such that the finished fuel particle has its own integral containment to minimize and control the release of fission products into the fuel body and reactor core. The TRISO coatings are the primary containment structure in the HTGR reactor and must have very high uniformity and integrity.

To ensure high quality TRISO coatings, the four layers are deposited by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) using high purity precursors and are applied in a concatenated succession of batch operations before the finished product is unloaded from the coating furnace. These depositions take place at temperatures ranging from 1230°C to 1550°C and use three different gas compositions, while the fuel particle diameters double, their density drops from 11.1 g/cm3 to 3.0 g/cm3, and the bed volume increases more than 8-fold. All this is accomplished without the aid of sight ports or internal instrumentation that could cause chemical contamination within the layers or mechanical damage to thin layers in the early stages of each layer deposition.

The converging section of the furnace retort was specifically designed to prevent bed stagnation that would lead to unacceptably high defect fractions and facilitate bed circulation to avoid large variability in coating layer dimensions and properties. The gas injection nozzle was designed to protect precursor gases from becoming overheated prior to injection, to induce bed spouting and preclude bed stagnation in the bottom of the retort. Furthermore, the retort and injection nozzle designs minimize buildup of pyrocarbon and silicon carbide on the retort wall and manage nozzle orifice accretions. The equipment and operating methods have yielded very good reliability of equipment and product reproducibility in the TRISO coated particles batches.