Argonne National Laboratory
Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors
Nuclear Science and Engineering Division at Argonne
U.S. Department of Energy

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Abstracts and Available Papers Presented at the
1998 International RERTR Meeting

Fuel Powder Production from Ductile Uranium Alloys

C. R. Clark and M. K. Meyer
Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne, IL USA

J. T. Strauss
HJE Corporation
Glens Falls, NY USA


Metallic uranium alloys are candidate materials for use as the fuel phase in very-high-density LEU dispersion fuels. These ductile alloys cannot be converted to powder form by the processes routinely used for oxides or intermetallics. Three methods of powder production from uranium alloys have been investigated within the US-RERTR program. These processes are grinding, cryogenic milling, and hydride-dehydride. In addition, a gas atomization process was investigated using gold as a surrogate for uranium.

Grinding was found to be inefficient and introduced impurities into the fuel. Cryogenic milling of machine chips in a steel vial was found to have similar shortcomings.

The hydride-dehydride process has historically been used to produce very fine powder that may not be suitable for fuel fabrication. Uranium is made to form its hydride by heating in a hydrogen atmosphere. Subsequent heating under vacuum drives off hydrogen gas and returns the hydride to a metallic state. The volume change on hydride formation results in a fine powder upon dehydriding. The effects of alloying elements, partial hydriding, and subsequent milling treatments on particle size distribution are being explored.

Inert gas atomization is used on an industrial scale to produce metal powder. Current designs are not suitable for use with uranium. A system was specifically designed for uranium atomization. A prototype was built and tested using gold as a surrogate for uranium. The system operates efficiently and can produce powder in a variety of size ranges by changing the atomization nozzle.

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Curtis R. Clark
Argonne National Laboratory
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Last modified on July 29, 2008 11:32 +0200