WSU Cougar Head Logo Washington State University
WSU Insider
News and Information for Faculty, Staff, and the WSU Community

Researchers developing storage techniques for next generation nuclear fuels

Washington State University logo.

A $500,000 grant from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will help Washington State University scientists study various aspects of safely storing and disposing of next generation nuclear fuels. 

Xiaofeng Guo, an assistant professor of chemistry, and John McCloy, director of the WSU School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, will use funding from the three-year grant to look at how non-oxide-based fuels degrade under various storage and disposal conditions.

The new fuel sources, uranium nitride and uranium nitride-silicide composites, are planned for use in generation-IV nuclear reactors that are expected to come online in the next 30 or 40 years. These new reactors are designed to operate at higher temperatures and enhance productivity while also being safer and more reliable than conventional reactors.

Closeup of Xiaofeng Guo
Xiaofeng Guo

Guo said one of advantages of non-oxide-based fuels is that they can more quickly dissipate heat unlike conventional oxygen-based fuels, which can trigger a meltdown when cooling systems fail as occurred in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 after a tsunami struck.

“One challenge to these new fuels coming online is that like every other new technology they need to be licensed firstly by NRC,” Guo said. “We are contributing to that process by studying what happens to these non-oxide-based fuels after being used and discharged from reactors, and transferred to storage and disposal sites for over a period up to a million years. During that period, the spent nuclear fuels may come into contact with water, oxygen, or other materials in the environment, leading to chemical reactions for releasing radioactive materials. By predicting the conditions under which these reaction may occur, researchers and engineers can improve fuel and storage strategies to prevent potential contamination.”

In addition to the NRC grant, Guo is also the recent recipient of a NSF CAREER award to further the development of a new class of ceramic materials that could be used for an array of applications in both sustainable energy and national security. 

Next Story

Recent News

March 28: Crimson Reads explores early professional scholarship

A panel presentation, “From Dissertation to Book: Discussing the Process and Experience of Early Professional Scholarship,” will be held from 1-2 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, in the Terrell Library atrium. The event will also be livestreamed.

Seahawks mascot declared healthy after surgery at WSU

The augur hawk, named Taima, will be ready to lead his team onto the field when the NFL season kicks off after undergoing a short procedure to remove a concerning growth from his left foot.

UNIV course suite reviewed, refreshed

A system-wide committee has updated the suite of one-to-four-credit university student-success courses and processes for the first time in a decade, resulting in several changes effective starting in fall 2023.

Find More News

Subscribe for more updates