Scientists in Russia have developed a unique, low-cost method for producing high-quality nuclear fuel using electricity. The main type of fuel for nuclear power reactors is the uranium oxide pellet composition, said Ivan Tananaev, from the Far Eastern Federal University School of Natural Sciences. It is produced from a powder by granulation, pressing, and sintering (coalescing into a solid or porous mass by heating) with the subsequent control of the quality and size of the pellets.
- The new technology allows one to obtain products that are of high quality and to reduce the number of production stages without increasing the cost.
- The researchers have proposed an alternative mode of production, which forms the basis of powder metallurgy: electric pulse sintering under pressure.
- The key idea of our method is heating by an electric current passing through the mould with the powder placed in it.
- Under these circumstances, the uranium oxide fuel is simultaneously influenced by the powerful pulse discharge and mechanical pressure.
- The main advantages of the new method are the increase in production rate and the product quality improvement.
- Using the new method, the fuel pellets may be produced even from uranium dioxide powder, which is not suitable for the conventional technology.
- According to the researchers, the proposed method can be adapted in industrial applications thanks to the low cost of one unit of product – up to USD 10.