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CNL Awards of Excellence/D.F. Togerson Award: 3D printing using uranium dioxide

D.F. Togerson Award: 3D printing using uranium dioxide

Anil Prasad, Catherine Thiriet, Daniel Cluff, James Crigger, Jeffrey Battersby, Nikolas Kotsios, and Reeghan Osmond 

For 3D printing using uranium dioxide. 

The “3D Printing using Uranium Dioxide” project is being nominated to acknowledge the exceptional achievement by the fuel development research team of the successful and safe 3D printing using radioactive natural uranium dioxide (UO2). The work is the culmination of several years of dedicated research, which commenced in 2017, and several iterations of development, building upon the 3D printing of other, related, materials including inert zirconia and radioactive thoria.

Conventional nuclear power reactors are fueled using UO2 in the form of cylinders stacked in fuel elements to form fuel bundles. While the cylindrical fuel form has the advantage of ease of production (i.e., the pressing and sintering a right cylinder fuel pellet is an established methodology), a compromise must be met with the temperature gradient experienced across the fuel pellets during operation due to the extremely poor heat conductivity of UO2. With the nuclear industry seeking to increase the reactor coolant temperature to increase efficiency, a new fuel design is required in order to tolerate the increase in operating temperatures. The application of the 3D printing process to create a three-dimensional object layer-by-layer using plastic and a computer-generated design can be applied to the fabrication of nuclear fuel, thereby uncovering a technique that can print new geometries in order to improve the safety and performance of future reactors.