Investigation of the Thermal Stability of NdxScyZr1−x−yO2−δ Materials Proposed for Inert Matrix Fuel Applications
PublisherAmerican Chemical Society
Inert matrix fuels (IMF) consist of transuranic elements (i.e., Pu, Am, Np, Cm) embedded in a neutron transparent (inert) matrix and can be used to “burn up” (transmute) these elements in current or Generation IV nuclear reactors. Yttria-stabilized zirconia has been extensively studied for IMF applications, but the low thermal conductivity of this material limits its usefulness. Other elements can be used to stabilize the cubic zirconia structure, and the thermal conductivity of the fuel can be increased through the use of a lighter stabilizing element. To this end, a series of NdxScyZr1−x−yO2−δ materials has been synthesized via a co-precipitation reaction and characterized by multiple techniques (Nd was used as a surrogate for Am). The long-range and local structures of these materials were studied using powder X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Additionally, the stability of these materials over a range of temperatures has been studied by annealing the materials at 1100 and 1400 °C. It was shown that the NdxScyZr1−x−yO2−δ materials maintained a single cubic phase upon annealing at high temperatures only when both Nd and Sc were present with y ≥ 0.10 and x + y > 0.15.