Fabrication of U3Si2 Powder for Fuels Used in IEA-R1 Nuclear Research Reactor
Powdered uranium silicide (U3Si2) 20% U235 enriched is an intermetallic compound used as nuclear fuel material dispersed in aluminum to be the meat of fuel elements. U3Si2 powder is the state-of-the-art as nuclear fuel material mostly used in modern research reactors. Its recent established fabrication in IPEN replaced the previous ceramic powder U3O8 used in the fuel of IEAR1 (IPEN/CNEN, São Paulo, Brazil). The U3Si2 is a compound with 92.3%wtU and 7.7%wtSi. Its production is made by induction furnace melting using metallic uranium, produced by magnesiothermic reaction, and pure silicon. The induction furnace melts under argon controlled environment using zirconia crucible. Homogenization of liquid bath at 1800°C is a compromise between crucible resistance and homogenized melting, avoiding hazardous happenings. IPEN produced its first lot of enriched U3Si2 in September 2004, with a continuous fabrication ever since. This research work represents the ability of having fully Brazilian supply of this strategic and high cost nuclear material. The fuel quality meets the world quality standards required by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and RERTR standards. Brazilian production of U3Si2 powder not only closed the fuel cycle, from uranium mineral to fuel element, but also allowed higher productivity of nuclear medicine radioisotopes by IEA-R1.
Lucio Salgado and Francisco Ambrozio Filho
A. M. Saliba-Silva et al., "Fabrication of U3Si2 Powder for Fuels Used in IEA-R1 Nuclear Research Reactor", Materials Science Forum, Vols. 591-593, pp. 194-199, 2008