Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Travis W. Knight


Uranium carbide (UC) has long been considered a potential alternative to uranium dioxide (UO2) fuel, especially in the context of Gen IV gas-cooled reactors. It has shown promise because of its high uranium density, good irradiation stability, and especially high thermal conductivity. Despite its many benefits, UC is known to swell at a rate twice that of UO2. However, the swelling phenomenon is not well understood, and we are limited to a weak empirical understanding of the swelling mechanism.

One suggested cladding for UC is silicon carbide (SiC), a ceramic that demonstrates a number of desirable properties. Among them are an increased corrosion resistance, high mechanical strength, and irradiation stability. However, with increased temperatures, SiC exhibits an extremely brittle nature. The brittle behavior of SiC is not fully understood and thus it is unknown how SiC would respond to the added stress of a swelling UC fuel.

To better understand the interaction between these advanced materials, each has been implemented into FRAPCON, the preferred fuel performance code of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); additionally, the material properties for a helium coolant have been incorporated. The implementation of UC within FRAPCON required the development of material models that described not only the thermophysical properties of UC, such as thermal conductivity and thermal expansion, but also models for the swelling, densification, and fission gas release associated with the fuel's irradiation behavior.

This research is intended to supplement ongoing analysis of the performance and behavior of uranium carbide and silicon carbide in a helium-cooled reactor.


© 2013, Luke H. Hallman