Microstructured nuclear fuel adapted for nuclear power system use includes fissile material structures of micrometer-scale dimension dispersed in a matrix material. In one method of production, fissile material particles are processed in a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) fluidized-bed reactor including a gas inlet for providing controlled gas flow into a particle coating chamber, a lower bed hot zone region to contain powder, and an upper bed region to enable powder expansion. At least one pneumatic or electric vibrator is operationally coupled to the particle coating chamber for causing vibration of the particle coater to promote uniform powder coating within the particle coater during fuel processing. An exhaust associated with the particle coating chamber and can provide a port for placement and removal of particles and powder. During use of the fuel in a nuclear power reactor, fission products escape from the fissile material structures and come to rest in the matrix material. After a period of use in a nuclear power reactor and subsequent cooling, separation of the fissile material from the matrix containing the embedded fission products will provide an efficient partitioning of the bulk of the fissile material from the fission products. The fissile material can be reused by incorporating it into new microstructured fuel. The fission products and matrix material can be incorporated into a waste form for disposal or processed to separate valuable components from the fission products mixture.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-36 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.