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Characterization of spark plasma sintered nuclear fuel materials Prasad, Anil


Nuclear fission energy is playing a vital role in providing many countries with carbon-free energy. However, nuclear accidents such as the Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island, have raised questions about the accident tolerance of nuclear power plants around the world. As a result, nuclear energy scientists and engineers are continuously working towards making nuclear fission energy safer. As a part of this effort, the concept of Accident Tolerant Fuel (ATF) is being investigated globally by optimising geometric or material properties of nuclear fuel. The global CANada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) fleet of reactors are capable of utilising both Uranium dioxide (UO₂) and Thorium dioxide (ThO₂) as fuel without enrichment. In this study, development of ATF fuel was investigated by both geometric and material approaches for both Uranium dioxide and Thorium dioxide fuel materials targeted for CANDU reactor application. Material additives, such as SiC, diamond, CNTs, graphene etc. decompose under the extreme thermal conditions used during conventional sintering of nuclear fuels. In this study, Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS) was used to synthesize nuclear fuel materials and their composites and to study their densificiation mechanisms during sintering. The study covered the two different forms of ATF: ThO₂ based composite fuels (ThO₂-SiC, ThO₂-diamond and (Th,U)O₂) and Internally and eXternally cooled Annular Fuel (IXAF). The first part of the dissertation focused on studying the densification kinetics of ThO₂ and its composites, which enabled the construction of Master Sintering Curves (MSCs) that could be used as roadmaps for future SPS research on these fuel materials. The second part of the dissertation focused on the comparison of IXAF fabricated via SPS and conventional sintering.

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