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Hot Hydrogen Testing of Tungsten-Uranium Dioxide (W-UO2) CERMET Fuel Materials for Nuclear Thermal PropulsionCERMET fuel materials are being developed at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center for a Nuclear Cryogenic Propulsion Stage. Recent work has resulted in the development and demonstration of a Compact Fuel Element Environmental Test (CFEET) System that is capable of subjecting depleted uranium fuel material samples to hot hydrogen. A critical obstacle to the development of an NCPS engine is the high-cost and safety concerns associated with developmental testing in nuclear environments. The purpose of this testing capability is to enable low-cost screening of candidate materials, fabrication processes, and further validation of concepts. The CERMET samples consist of depleted uranium dioxide (UO2) fuel particles in a tungsten metal matrix, which has been demonstrated on previous programs to provide improved performance and retention of fission products1. Numerous past programs have utilized hot hydrogen furnace testing to develop and evaluate fuel materials. The testing provides a reasonable simulation of temperature and thermal stress effects in a flowing hydrogen environment. Though no information is gained about radiation damage, the furnace testing is extremely valuable for development and verification of fuel element materials and processes. The current work includes testing of subscale W-UO2 slugs to evaluate fuel loss and stability. The materials are then fabricated into samples with seven cooling channels to test a more representative section of a fuel element. Several iterations of testing are being performed to evaluate fuel mass loss impacts from density, microstructure, fuel particle size and shape, chemistry, claddings, particle coatings, and stabilizers. The fuel materials and forms being evaluated on this effort have all been demonstrated to control fuel migration and loss. The objective is to verify performance improvements of the various materials and process options prior to expensive full scale fabrication and testing. Post test analysis will include weight percent fuel loss, microscopy, dimensional tolerance, and fuel stability.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Hickman, Robert (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Broadway, Jeramie (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
September 23, 2014
Publication Date
July 28, 2014
Subject Category
Propellants and Fuels
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit(Cleveland, OH)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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