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Annual Report

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This project examines inert fuels containing ZrO2 and MgO as the inert matrix, with the relative amount of MgO varied from 30% to 70% in ZrO2. Reactor physics calculations are used to examine suitable quantities of burnable poisons from the candidate elements Gd, Er, or Hf with reactor grade Pu providing the fissile component, with up to 10% of 239Pu. Ceramics are synthesized and characterized based on the reactor physics results. The solubility of the fuel ceramics, in reactor conditions, reprocessing conditions, and repository conditions, are investigated in a manner to provide thermodynamic data necessary for modeling.

The research objectives of this project are as follows:

  • To examine the neutronic behavior of MgO-ZrO2 inert fuels. Variation of MgO and ZrO2 composition ranges from 30% to 70% MgO in ZrO2. Analysis of Gd, Er, and Hf for reactivity control ranging from 5-10% lanthanides. Analysis of reactor grade Pu as fissile component ranging from 5-10% Pu. Results will be used as parameters for fuel composition.
  • To synthesize and characterize of MgO-ZrO2 ceramics containing burnable poison and fissile composition. Synthesis is based on a precipitation method. Range of MgO in ZrO2, Pu concentration, and burnable poison concentration based on results of neutronic calculations. Characterization of ceramics will include density, X-ray diffraction, surface area analysis, X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy, and chemical composition. Results will be applied to behavior in high temperature water, acid, and environmental conditions.
  • To describe the chemical behavior of synthesized ceramics. Chemical thermodynamic and kinetic analysis will use equilibrium data, kinetic data, and surface area normalized dissolution. Different conditions will include reactor conditions (high temperature and high pressure water) and reprocessing conditions (nitric acid and elevated temperature). Environmental conditions will be near neutral solution conditions.
  • To utilize project data in kinetic and thermodynamic modeling codes to evaluate the speciation of the elements in the ceramics under reactor, reprocessing, and repository conditions.


Ceramics; Magnesium oxide; Mixed oxide fuels (Nuclear engineering); Nuclear chemistry; Nuclear fuels; Plutonium; Solid oxide fuel cells; Zirconium oxide

Controlled Subject

Ceramics; Mixed oxide fuels (Nuclear engineering); Nuclear chemistry


Ceramic Materials | Nuclear | Nuclear Engineering | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Radiochemistry

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