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Abstract

Metallic fuel slugs containing rare-earth (RE) elements have high reactivity with quartz (SiO2) molds, and a reaction layer with a considerable thickness is formed at the surface of metallic fuel slugs. The surface characterization of metallic fuel slugs is essential for safety while operating a fast reactor at elevated temperature. Hence, it is necessary to evaluate the surface characteristics of the fuel slugs so that chemical interaction between fuel slug and cladding can be minimized in the reactor. When the Si element causes a eutectic reaction with the cladding, it deteriorates the metallic fuel slugs. Thus, it is necessary to examine the characteristics of the surface reaction layer to prevent the reaction of the metallic fuel slugs. In this study, we investigated the metallurgical characteristics of the surface reaction layer of fabricated U-10wt.%Zr-Xwt.%RE (X = 0, 5, 10) fuel slugs using injection casting. The results showed that the thickness of the surface reaction layer increased as the RE content of the metallic fuel slugs increased. The surface reaction layer of the metallic fuel slug was mainly formed by RE, Zr and the Si, which diffused in the quartz mold.
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Abstract

U-10wt.%Zr metallic fuel slugs containing rare-earth (RE: a rare-earth alloy comprising 53% Nd, 25% Ce, 16% Pr and 6% La) elements for a sodium-cooled fast reactor were fabricated by modified injection casting as an alternative method. The distribution, size and composition of the RE inclusions in the metallic fuel slugs were investigated according to the content of the RE inclusions. There were no observed casting defects, such as shrunk pipes, micro-shrinkage or hot tears formed during solidification, in the metallic fuel slugs fabricated by modified injection casting. Scanning electron micrographs and energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) showed that the Zr and RE inclusions were uniformly distributed in the matrix and the composition of the RE inclusions was similar to that of a charged RE element. The content and the size of the RE inclusions increased slightly according to the charge content of the RE elements. RE inclusions in U-Zr alloys will have a positive effect on fuel performance due to their micro-size and high degree of distribution.
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