Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Radiochemistry

Advisor 1

Ken Czerwinski, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Gary Cerefice

Second Committee Member

Kurt Sickafus

Graduate Faculty Representative

Ralf Sudowe

Number of Pages



There is a significant buildup in plutonium stockpiles throughout the world, because of spent nuclear fuel and the dismantling of weapons. The radiotoxicity of this material and proliferation risk has led to a desire for destroying excess plutonium. To do this effectively, it must be fissioned in a reactor as part of a uranium free fuel to eliminate the generation of more plutonium. This requires an inert matrix to volumetrically dilute the fissile plutonium. Zirconia-magnesia dual phase ceramic has been demonstrated to be a favorable material for this task. It is neutron transparent, zirconia is chemically robust, magnesia has good thermal conductivity and the ceramic has been calculated to conform to current economic and safety standards. This dissertation contributes to the knowledge of zirconia-magnesia as an inert matrix fuel to establish behavior of the material containing a fissile component. First, the zirconia-magnesia inert matrix is synthesized in a dual phase ceramic containing a fissile component and a burnable poison. The chemical constitution of the ceramic is then determined. Next, the material performance is assessed under conditions relevant to an advanced fuel cycle. Reactor conditions were assessed with high temperature, high pressure water. Various acid solutions were used in an effort to dissolve the material for reprocessing. The ceramic was also tested as a waste form under environmental conditions, should it go directly to a repository as a spent fuel. The applicability of zirconia-magnesia as an inert matrix fuel and waste form was tested and found to be a promising material for such applications.


Inert matrix fuel; Magnesium; Nuclear fuel; Nuclear reactions; Plutonium; Zirconia-magnesia; Zirconium


Nuclear Engineering | Radiochemistry

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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