A new “combustion synthesis” process recently developed for lanthanide metals, which are non-radioactive and one line upstream of the actinides in the periodic table could help develop and manufacture nuclear fuel.

Actinide nitride fuel is potentially a safer and more economical option in existing power systems. Nitride fuel is also well suited for future fifth-generation nuclear power systems that focus on safety and have a sustainable closed reactor fuel cycle. Actinide nitrides have superior thermal conductivity compared to oxides and are significantly more energy-intensive.

Bi Nguyen, lead author of the study
Actinide nitride fuels can provide greater stability due to their density. They are also more energy-intensive and have better thermal conductivity, allowing them to operate at lower temperatures.

However, actinide nitrides’ production is a rather complicated procedure, which continues to be the main obstacle to their use.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory have discovered that LnBTA [lanthanide bis (tetrazole) amine] compounds can be burned to produce high-purity lanthanide nitride foams using a unique technology called combustion synthesis. This method uses a laser pulse to initiate dehydrated LnBTA complexes: they then undergo a self-sustaining combustion reaction in an inert atmosphere to form nanostructured lanthanide nitride penins.

In this way, the LnBTA compound can be easily obtained in large volumes. At the moment, work continues on the study of analogs of actinides for the synthesis of fuel from actinide nitrides during combustion.