Cerium Oxide as a Surrogate Nuclear Fuel

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Engineering


Materials Science and Engineering

Faculty Sponsor

Brian J. Jaques


Due to the growing use of nuclear power there is increased interest in fully understanding the relationship between microstructure and performance of ceramic nuclear fuels. Currently, over one-third of the energy produced in most nuclear power plants comes from reactor grade plutonium-239 used in fast neutron reactors. Plutonium is a reaction product of uranium-238 which is recovered and recycled as a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. It is well known there are significant risks and challenges involved with handling and processing highly radioactive materials like uranium and plutonium. It is therefore important to identify appropriate surrogate nuclear fuel materials which can be used to gain a better understanding of mechanical and thermophysical properties. Due to similar ionic size, crystal structure, and melting point, cerium oxide (CeO2) is being investigated as a surrogate nuclear fuel for plutonium oxide (PuO2), particularly in studies for mixed oxide fuels and radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). The research presented is focused on optimizing fabrication techniques through the characterization of CeO2 pellets. This work includes investigating the effects of synthesis parameters on characteristics such as grain size, porosity, stoichiometry, and density. The mechanical properties (i.e., transverse rupture strength), are also being investigated as a function of grain size and additives.

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