Design of an integrated system to recycle Zircaloy cladding using a hydride–milling–dehydride process Academic Article uri icon


  • A hydride-dehydride process was evaluated to recover a portion of spent nuclear fuel cladding; a zirconium alloy (Zircaloy), as a metal powder that may be used for advanced nuclear fuel applications. The investigation was part of a broader study that sought to determine the viability of recovering components of used nuclear fuel to for a metal matrix cermet for transuranic burning. The zirconium powder process begins with the conversion of Zircaloy cladding hulls into a brittle zirconium hydride, which is easily pulverized into a powder. The dehydriding process removes hydrogen by heating the powder in a vacuum, resulting in a zirconium metal powder. In support of this, a specialized piece of equipment was designed to demonstrate the entire zirconium conversion process to transform Zircaloy tubes into metal powder without intermediate handling. This was accomplished by building a milling system that rotates inside of controlled atmosphere chamber with an internal heater. The hydriding process was accomplished using an argon-5% hydrogen atmosphere at 500 C. The process variables for the dehydriding process were determined using a thermogavimetric analysis (TGA) method. It was determined that a rough vacuum (~0.001 bar) and 800 C were sufficient to decompose the zirconium hydride. Zirconium metal powder was created using different milling times: 45 min (coarse powder) and 12 h (fine powder). X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis indicated that the process produced a zirconium metal. Additionally, visual observations of the samples silvery metallic appearance confirmed the presence of zirconium metal. The presence of zirconium metal in the two samples confirmed the operation of the hydriding/milling/hydriding machine. Further refining of the hydride/milling/dehydride machine could make this process commercially favorable when compared to the high cost of storing nuclear waste and its components. An additional important point is that this process can easily be used on other metals that are subject to hydrogen embrittlement, knowing the relevant temperatures and pressures associated with the hydriding/dehydriding of that particular metal. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

author list (cited authors)

  • Kelley, R., & McDeavitt, S.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Kelley, Randy||McDeavitt, Sean

publication date

  • October 2013