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Dokumentenidentifikation EP0502395 07.09.1995
EP-Veröffentlichungsnummer 0502395
Titel Kernbrennstofftabletten und Verfahren zur Herstellung derselben.
Anmelder Nippon Nuclear Fuel Development Co., Ltd., Ibaraki, JP
Erfinder Yuda, Ryoichi, c/o Nippon Nuclear Fuel, Higashi-Ibaraki-gun, Ibaraki-ken, 311-13, JP;
Ito, Kenichi, c/o Nippon Nuclear Fuel, Higashi-Ibaraki-gun, Ibaraki-ken, 311-13, JP;
Masuda, Hiroshi, c/o Nippon Nuclear Fuel, Higashi-Ibaraki-gun, Ibaraki-ken, 311-13, JP
Vertreter Hoffmann, Eitle & Partner Patent- und Rechtsanwälte, 81925 München
DE-Aktenzeichen 69203755
Vertragsstaaten DE, FR, GB
Sprache des Dokument En
EP-Anmeldetag 24.02.1992
EP-Aktenzeichen 921030607
EP-Offenlegungsdatum 09.09.1992
EP date of grant 02.08.1995
Veröffentlichungstag im Patentblatt 07.09.1995
IPC-Hauptklasse G21C 3/62
IPC-Nebenklasse C04B 35/51   

Beschreibung[en]
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Field of the Invention:

This invention relates to a method of producing nuclear fuel pellets including UO2-Gd2O3, and more particularly to nuclear fuel pellets having a satisfactory solid-solution state, greater grain diameters and a second phase precipitated in grain boundaries.

Description of the Prior Art:

As for nuclear fuel to be loaded into a light water reactor or a fast breeder reactor, intactness of fuel has been confirmed at a high burnup level ever experienced in a reactor. However, at present, extension of burnup to still higher levels has been planned. This plan inevitably involves the following disadvantages. Specifically, so-called bubble swelling occurs due to fission gas deposited in grain boundaries, i.e., an apparent volume of pellets increases due to bubbles produced in pellets because of gaseous fission products. Thus, PCI (pellet-cladding interaction), which is a mechanical interaction between pellets and a cladding, increases. Further, an inner pressure of a fuel rod increases because of fission gas release from fuel pellets. These phenomena may cause intactness of fuel to be deteriorated.

To avoid these disadvantages, the following techniques have been attempted. Specifically, a fission gas release fraction (a ratio of the released to the produced of fission gas) is suppressed by increasing diameters of pellets grains. This is based on that a fission gas release from pellets is rate-controlled by diffusion of fission gas in pellet grains. However, when the diameters of pellet grains are increased, a creep rate of the pellets is decreased. This provides an adverse effect on PCI.

To increase a creep rate of pellets there have been disclosed two technique (Japanese Patent Applications No. 1-193691 and No. 2-242195) in which a sintering agent consisting of aluminum oxide and silicon oxide is added to uranium dioxide powder so that a second soft phase can be precipitated in the grain boundaries of the pellets. In these techniques, the total amounts of the sintering agents to be added are about 0.1 wt% through about 0.8 wt%, and about 0.05 wt% through about 0.4 wt%, respectively.

In general, it has been known that sinterability of a mixed oxide of UO2 and Gd2O3 is lower than that of pure UO2. Further, when sintering is performed under a given condition, a sintered density and grain diameters of the mixed oxide of UO2 and Gd2O3 become smaller than those in the case of pure UO2. Further, when sintering is performed in a flowing dry hydrogen, a large number of micro-cracks occur in pellets. To avoid the above-described disadvantages, in the case of UO2 having Gd2O3 added thereto, sintering is generally performed in a humid hydrogen atmosphere or in a mixed gas atmosphere of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Further, the sintering is performed at a relatively high temperature (1700°C or higher). However, assume that sintering is performed in such atmospheres and a sintering agent, which consists of aluminum oxide and silicon oxide in the above-described conventional proportion, is added to the mixed oxide of UO2 and Gd2O3. In this case, pores are generated in pellets, probably due to evaporation of silicon oxides, so that a density of pellets becomes decreased. As the pellet density becomes lower, a thermal conductivity of the pellets degrades. As a result, a fuel center temperature increases in service, so that both bubble swelling and a fission gas release rate are enhanced. This is disadvantageous to the performance of nuclear fuel pellets. Further, it has also been experimentally confirmed that grain diameters of pellets and a solid-solution state thereof can no longer improved even when a sintering agent of 500 ppm or more is added.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, one object of the present invention is to provide a method of manufacturing nuclear fuel pellets including fission substance, the fission substance being UO2 having Gd2O3 added thereto, the pellets comprising a satisfactory solid-solution state (homogeneous state), large grain diameters, and a second phase precipitated in grain boundaries, and still having a sufficiently high density.

In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a method of manufacturing nuclear fuel pellets comprising the steps of compacting an oxide powder of UO2 having Gd2O3 added thereto, and sintering the oxide powder compacts. More specifically, the method comprises the steps of mixing a sintering agent consisting of SiO2 of about 40 wt% through about 80 wt% and Al2O3 of the residual with the above-described oxide powder, the mixing proportion thereof being about 10 ppm through about 500 ppm with respect to the total amount of the oxide powder and the sintering agent; pressing the mixed oxide powder so as to obtain green pellets; and sintering the green pellets at a temperature in a range of about 1500 °C through 1800 °C so as to obtain sintered pellets.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more complete appreciation of the invention and many of the attendant advantages thereof will be readily obtained as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

  • Figure 1 is a diagram illustrating processes of one embodiment according to the present invention;
  • Figure 2 is a diagram illustrating nuclear fuel pellets produced according to one embodiment of the present invention when observed by a microscope; and
  • Figure 3 is a diagram illustrating nuclear fuel pellets manufactured by use of a conventional technique in which a sintering agent is not used, when observed by a microscope.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Hereinafter, manufacturing processes according to one embodiment of the present invention will be described with reference to Figure 1.

First, a sintering agent was manufactured in the following manner. Specifically, Al2O3 of about 40 wt% and SiO2 of about 60 wt% were coarsely mixed. The mixture thereof was exposed to a mixed gas flow of 8 %-H2/N2, and was heated up to about 2100 °C, and then melted. Thereafter, the melt was cooled, and homogeneous aluminum silicate was obtained. The thus obtained aluminum silicate was then ground. As a result, uniform powder was obtained as a sintering agent. By use of this sintering agent, nuclear fuel pellets were manufactured in accordance with processes shown in Figure 1. Specifically, the sintering agent was added to UO2 powder, and then Gd2O3 powder was mixed. Further, a lubricant (stearic acid, polyethylene glycol and the like) was added, as shown in Figure 1. This mixture was compacted by an uniaxial press and then green pellets were obtained. The adding amount of the sintering agent was about 30 through about 500 ppm, and the adding amount of the Gd2O3 powder was about 10 wt%, both with respect to the total amount of UO2, Gd2O3 and the above-described sintering agent. Next, the thus obtained green pellets were processed in a degreasing process. Thereafter, the green pellets were sintered in a humid hydrogen atmosphere at about 1760 °C for about 5.6 hours. In some cases, the lubricant-mixing process and the degreasing process may be omitted.

The sintering density and average grain diameter of the thus manufactured nuclear fuel pellets were compared with those of the nuclear fuel pellets obtained by use of the sintering agent of adding amount of 0.25 wt%. The results of comparison are as follows: adding amount of sintering agent sintered density

(g/cm3)
average grain diameter

(µm)
30 ppm 10.40 27.2 70 ppm 10.34 25.6 130 ppm 10.39 25.7 250 ppm 10.37 32.7 500 ppm 10.33 33.3 0.25 wt% 10.20 24.7

As can be seen from the comparison results, the sintered densities of the pellets manufactured in accordance with this embodiment are significantly higher than that of the pellet manufactured with addition of the sintering agent by 0.25 wt%. Further, the grain diameters of the pellets of this invention are also increased.

For the sake of comparison, Figure 2 and Figure 3 respectively show the microstructure of each nuclear fuel pellet after polished and chemically etched, when observed by a microscope. Specifically, Figure 2 shows a UO2-10 wt% Gd2O3 nuclear fuel pellet including the sintering agent of 30 ppm according to this embodiment. Figure 3 shows conventional a UO2-10 wt% Gd2O3 without a sintering agent. As can be seen from Figure 2 and Figure 3, in the pellet of this embodiment (Figure 2), the portions of free UO2 phase, which are indicated by the shaded portions (blue portions in the actual microphotograph), are much smaller (2 vol% at a maximum) than those shown in Figure 3.

In this embodiment according to the present invention, a humid hydrogen gas was used as a sintering atmosphere. However, a mixed gas of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide may also be used as a sintering atmosphere. Further, in this embodiment, aluminum oxide and silicon oxide were mixed and melted, and then aluminum silicate was obtained as a sintering agent. However, besides this, the mere mixed powder of aluminum oxide and silicon oxide may also be used as a sintering agent.

As described above, when nuclear fuel pellets are manufactured in accordance with the manufacturing method of this invention, a series of phenomena occur in the following manner. Specifically, a sintering agent becomes a single liquid phase during the sintering, and through this liquid phase, Gd2O3 is dispersed into the entire pellets. Thus, the effective inter-diffusion distances between UO2 and Gd2O3 become smaller, so that the generation of solid-solution phase is promoted. Further, a liquid phase-sintering mechanism promoters reaction between particles, so that the growth of grains is promoted. This growth of grains increases the diffusion distance between FP gas and grain boundaries. Thus, a FP gas release rate from the pellets decreases.

In the present invention, the mixing proportion of a sintering agent (consisting of aluminum oxide and silicon oxide) is determined to be about 10 ppm through about 500 ppm with respect to the total amount of nuclear fuel pellets. This is based on that the following facts have been confirmed. Specifically, the adding amount of the sintering agent must be 10 ppm at a minimum in order to improve the solid-solution state (i.e., to obtain homogeneous pellets) while a free UO2 phase is maintained to be 5% at a maximum. Further, the grain-growth-promoting effect reaches a maximum when the adding amount of the sintering agent is about 250 ppm. Further, when the adding amount of the sintering agent exceeds 500 ppm, this is not only insignificant but also decreases the pellet density. Further, if the sintering agent includes Al2O3 of more than 60 wt%, the grain-growth-promoting effect decreases.

As described above, according to the present invention, the solid-solution state (i.e., homogeneous state) of nuclear fuel pellets can be improved. Further, the creep characteristics of nuclear fuel pellets can also be improved by grain boundaries softened by glassy phase in spite of large grain diameter. Therefore the nuclear fuel pellets manufactured in accordance with this invention can decrease a FP gas release rate, and can also improve the PCI resistance, whereby burnup extension toward higher levels of the nuclear fuel can be achieved.

Obviously, numerous additional modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein.


Anspruch[de]
  1. Verfahren zur Herstellung von Kernbrennstoffpellets, in denen ein Oxidpulver, das UO2, dem Gd2O3 beigemengt wurde, enthält, verdichtet und dann gesintert wird und das besagte Verfahren folgende Schritte beinhaltet:
    • Herstellen eines Sintermittels mit einer Zusammensetzung, die etwa 40 bis etwa 80 Gew. % SiO2 und den Rest Al2O3 beinhaltet;
    • Mischen von besagtem Sintermittel mit besagtem Oxidpulver, um ein Oxidpulver zu erhalten, das das Sintermittel zu etwa 10 bis etwa 500 ppm, bezüglich der Gesamtmenge des besagten Oxidpulvers und des besagten Sintermittels, enthält;
    • Verdichten des gemischten Oxidpulvers, um grüne Pellets zu erhalten; und
    • Sintern der grünen Pellets bei einer Temperatur von etwa 1500 bis 1800°C, um gesinterte Pellets zu erhalten.
  2. Verfahren zur Herstellung von Kernbrennstoffpellets gemäß Anspruch 1, in dem besagte Schritte den Schritt des Mischens von besagtem Sintermittel mit einem UO2-Pulver, um ein gemischtes Grundpulver zu erhalten, und den Schritt des Mischens eines Gd2O3-Pulvers mit besagtem gemischten Grundpulver, beinhalten.
Anspruch[en]
  1. A method of manufacturing nuclear fuel pellets, wherein an oxide powder including UO2 having Gd2O3 added thereto is compacted and then sintered, said method comprising the steps of:
    • preparing a sintering agent having a composition including SiO2 of about 40 wt % through about 80 wt % and Al2O3 of the residual;
    • mixing said sintering agent with said oxide powder so as to obtain an oxide powder including said sintering agent of about 10 ppm through about 500 ppm with respect to the total amount of said oxide powder and said sintering agent;
    • compacting the mixed oxide powder so as to obtain green pellets; and
    • sintering the green pellets at a temperature in a range of about 1500 °C through about 1800 °C so as to obtain sintered pellets.
  2. The method of manufacturing nuclear fuel pellets of claim 1, wherein said steps include the step of mixing said sintering agent with a UO2 powder so as to obtain a main mixed powder, and the step of mixing a Gd2O3 powder with said main mixed powder.
Anspruch[fr]
  1. Procédé de fabrication de pastilles de combustible nucléaire, dans lequel une poudre d'oxydes comprenant UO2 auquel on a ajouté de Gd2O3, est tassée et ensuite frittée, ledit procédé comprenant les étapes consistant à:
    • préparer un agent de frittage ayant une composition comprenant d'environ 40% en poids à environ 80% en poids de SiO2, et Al2O3 comme résidu;
    • mélanger ledit agent de frittage à ladite poudre d'oxydes de manière à obtenir une poudre d'oxydes comprenant d'environ 10 ppm à environ 500 ppm dudit agent de frittage par rapport à la quantité totale de ladite poudre d'oxydes et dudit agent de frittage;
    • tasser ladite poudre d'oxydes mélangés de manière à obtenir pastilles vertes; et
    • fritter les pastilles vertes à une température comprise dans la gamme d'environ 1500°C à 1800°C de manière à obtenir des pastilles frittées.
  2. Procédé de fabrication de pastilles de combustible nucléaire selon la revendication 1, dans lequel lesdites étapes comprennent l'étape consistant à mélanger ledit, agent, de frittage avec une poudre de UO2 de manière à obtenir une poudre mélangée principale, et l'étape consistant à mélanger une autre poudre de Gd2O3 avec ladite poudre mélangée principale.






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