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Title: Concept Feasibility Report for Electroplating Zirconium onto Uranium Foil - Year 2

The Fuel Fabrication Capability within the U.S. High Performance Research Reactor Conversion Program is funded through the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) NA-26 (Office of Material Management and Minimization). An investigation was commissioned to determine the feasibility of using electroplating techniques to apply a coating of zirconium onto depleted uranium/molybdenum alloy (U-10Mo). Electroplating would provide an alternative method to the existing process of hot roll-bonding zirconium foil onto the U-10Mo fuel foil during the fabrication of fuel elements for high-performance research reactors. The objective of this research was to develop a reproducible and scalable plating process that will produce a uniform, 25 μm thick zirconium metal coating on U-10Mo foil. In previous work, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) established a molten salt electroplating apparatus and protocol to plate zirconium metal onto molybdenum foil (Coffey 2015). During this second year of the research, PNNL furthered this work by moving to the U-10Mo alloy system (90 percent uranium:10 percent molybdenum). The original plating apparatus was disassembled and re-assembled in a laboratory capable of handling low-level radioactive materials. Initially, the work followed the previous year’s approach, and the salt bath composition was targeted at the eutectic composition (LiF:NaF:ZrF4 = 26:37:37 mol%). Early resultsmore » indicated that the formation of uranium fluoride compounds would be problematic. Other salt bath compositions were investigated in order to eliminate the uranium fluoride production (LiF:NaF = 61:39 mol% and LiF:NaF:KF = 46.5:11.5:42 mol% ). Zirconium metal was used as the crucible for the molten salt. Three plating methods were used—isopotential, galvano static, and pulsed plating. The molten salt method for zirconium metal application provided high-quality plating on molybdenum in PNNL’s previous work. A key advantage of this approach is that plating can be performed under conditions that would greatly reduce the quantity of intermetallics that form at the interface between the zirconium and U-10Mo; unlike roll bonding, the molten salt plating approach would allow for complete coverage of the U-10Mo foil with zirconium. When utilizing the experimental parameters developed for zirconium plating onto molybdenum, a uranium fluoride reaction product was formed at the Zr/U-10Mo interface. By controlling the initial plating potential, the uranium fluoride could be prevented; however, the targeted zirconium thickness (25 ±12.5 μm) could not be achieved while maintaining 100% coverage.« less
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  1. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
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Technical Report
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States