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Thermal Energy Transport in Oxide Nuclear Fuel...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Chemical Reviews
Publication Date
Page Numbers
3711 to 3762

To efficiently capture the energy of the nuclear bond, advanced nuclear reactor concepts seek solid fuels that must withstand unprecedented temperature and radiation extremes. In these advanced fuels, thermal energy transport under irradiation is directly related to reactor performance as well as reactor safety. The science of thermal transport in nuclear fuel is a grand challenge as a result of both computational and experimental complexities. Here we provide a comprehensive review of thermal transport research on two actinide oxides: one currently in use in commercial nuclear reactors, uranium dioxide (UO2), and one advanced fuel candidate material, thorium dioxide (ThO2). In both materials, heat is carried by lattice waves or phonons. Crystalline defects caused by fission events effectively scatter phonons and lead to a degradation in fuel performance over time. Bolstered by new computational and experimental tools, researchers are now developing the foundational work necessary to accurately model and ultimately control thermal transport in advanced nuclear fuels. We begin by reviewing research aimed at understanding thermal transport in perfect single crystals. The absence of defects enables studies that focus on the fundamental aspects of phonon transport. Next, we review research that targets defect generation and evolution. Here the focus is on ion irradiation studies used as surrogates for damage caused by fission products. We end this review with a discussion of modeling and experimental efforts directed at predicting and validating mesoscale thermal transport in the presence of irradiation defects. While efforts in these research areas have been robust, challenging work remains in developing holistic tools to capture and predict thermal energy transport across widely varying environmental conditions.