Thorium based nuclear fuel is of immense interest to India by virtue of the abundance of Thorium and relative shortage of Uranium. Thorium metal tubes were being cold drawn using copper as cladding to prevent die seizure. After cold drawing, the copper was removed by dissolution in nitric acid. Thorium does not dissolve being passivated by nitric acid. Initially the copper cladding was carried out by inserting copper tubes inside and outside the thorium metal tube. In an innovative development, the mechanical cladding with copper was replaced by electroplated copper with a remarkable improvement in thorium tube acceptance rates. Oxalate derived thoria powder was found to require lower compaction pressures compared to ammonium diuranate derived urania powders to attain the same green compact density. However, the green pellets of thoria were fragile and chipped during handling. The strength improved after introducing a ball milling step before compaction and maintaining the green density above the specified value. Alternatively, binders were used later for greater handling strength. Magnesia was conventionally being used as dopant to enhance the sinterability of thoria. The normal sintering temperature for magnesia doped thoria was 1600˚C - 1700˚C, which was achieved in electrically heated molybdenum element sintering furnaces with reducing atmosphere. 0.25 mole percent addition of niobia to the thoria was found to bring down the sintering temperature to 1150˚C. Sintering could be done in ordinary furnaces in air atmosphere using silicon carbide or Kanthal heating elements. Electrical conductivity was measured for both magnesia and niobia doped sintered thoria and used in interpreting differences in sintering behavior.
Palanki, B. (2015). Fabrication of Thorium and Thorium Dioxide. Natural Science, 07(01), 10–17. https://doi.org/10.4236/ns.2015.71002