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The Development of CVR Coatings for PBR Fuels

  • Robert. E. Barletta (a1), P. E. Vanier (a1), M. B. Dowell (a2) and J. A. Lennartz (a2)


Particle bed reactors (PBRs) are being developed for both space power and propulsion applications. These reactors operate with exhaust gas temperatures in the range of 2500 to 3000 K and fuel temperatures which may be hundreds of degrees higher. One fuel design for these reactors consists of uranium carbide encapsulated in either carbon or graphite. This fuel kernel must be protected from the coolant gas, usually H2, both to prevent attack of the kernel and to limit fission product release. Refractory carbide coatings have been proposed for this purpose. The typical coating process used for this is a chemical vapor deposition. Testing of other components have indicated the superiority of refractory carbide coatings applied using a chemical vapor reaction (CVR) process, however technology to apply these coatings to large numbers of fuel particles with diameters on the order of 500 gim were not readily available.

A process to deposit these CVR coatings on surrogate fuel consisting of graphite particles is described. Several types of coatings have been applied to the graphite substrate. These include NbC in various thicknesses and a bilayer coating consisting of NbC and TaC with a intermediate layer of pyrolytic graphite. These coated particles have been characterized prior to test and the results of this characterization will be presented.



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1. Barletta, R. E., Vanier, P. E., Adams, J. W. and Svandrlik, J. F., “Carbon Erosion in Hydrogen - The “Midband” Problem Revisited”, in Tenth Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, edited by El-Genk, M. S. and Hoover, M. D. (AIP Conference Proceedings 2711, CONF930103,1993), p 245.
2. UCAR Advanced Ceramics, Pyrolytic Graphite, Technical Information Bulletin., 1989.
3. Bockros, J.C., in Walker, P.L. and Thrower, P., eds., Chemistry and Physics of Carbon, vol. 7, (Marcel Dekker, New York, 1969), p. 1.
4. Gmelin Institute, Gmelin Handbook of Inorganic Chemistry, System Number 49, Nb [B1], (Verlag Chemie, Weinheim, 1970), p. 353.
5. Storms, E. K., Refractory Carbides (Academic Press, New York, 1967).
6. Vanier, P. E., Barletta, R. E., Svandrlik, J. R. and Adams, J., “Tests of Hercules/Ultramet CVD Coatings in Hot Hydrogen”, BNL Informal Report, BNL-47965, 1992.


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