Uranium nitride-silicide advanced nuclear fuel: Higher efficiency and greater safety

Conference Dates

September 17-20, 2017


The development of new nuclear fuel compositions is being driven by an interest in improving efficiency/lowering cost and increasing safety margins. Nuclear fuel efficiency is in large measure a function of the atomic density of the uranium, that is, the more fissionable uranium available per unit volume the less fuel volume that is required. Proliferation concerns limit the concentration of fissile 235U, and thus attention is directed to higher overall uranium content fuel. Among the options are the high temperature phases U3Si2 and composite UN- U3Si2 where the design would have the more water-stable U3Si2 surround the more soluble, but higher uranium density UN grains. (Uranium metal of course has the highest atomic density, however its low melting point, high degree of swelling under irradiation, and chemical reactivity eliminate it from consideration.) Another advantage of the nitride and silicide phases are their high thermal conductivity, greatly exceeding the current standard UO2 fuel, with the high conductivity potentially allowing the fuel to operate at a higher power density.

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