Current Very High Temperature Reactor designs incorporate TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) particle fuel, which consists of a spherical fissile fuel kernel surrounded by layers of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide. An internal sol-gel process forms the fuel kernel by dropping a cold precursor solution into a column of hot trichloroethylene (TCE). The temperature difference drives the liquid precursor solution to precipitate the metal solution into gel spheres before reaching the bottom of a production column. Over time, gelation byproducts inhibit complete gelation and the TCE must be purified or discarded. The resulting mixed-waste stream is expensive to dispose of or recycle, and changing the forming fluid to a non-hazardous alternative could greatly improve the economics of kernel production. Selection criteria for a replacement forming fluid narrowed a list of ~10,800 chemicals to yield ten potential replacements. The physical properties of the alternatives were measured as a function of temperature between 25 degrees C and 80 degrees C. Calculated terminal velocities and heat transfer rates provided an overall column height approximation. 1-bromotetradecane, 1-chlorooctadecane, and 1-iodododecane were selected for further testing, and surrogate yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) kernels were produced using these selected fluids. The kernels were characterized for density, geometry, composition, and crystallinity and compared to a control group of kernels produced in silicone oil. Production in 1-bromotetradecane showed positive results, producing dense (93.8 %TD) and spherical (1.03 aspect ratio) kernels, but proper gelation did not occur in the other alternative forming fluids. With many of the YSZ kernels not properly gelling within the length of the column, this project further investigated the heat transfer properties of the forming fluids and precursor solution. A sensitivity study revealed that the heat transfer properties of the precursor solution have the strongest impact on gelation time. A COMSOL heat transfer model estimated an effective thermal diffusivity range for the YSZ precursor solution as 1.13x10[superscript -8] m[superscript 2]/s to 3.35x10[superscript -8] m[superscript 2]/s, which is an order of magnitude smaller than the value used in previous studies. 1-bromotetradecane is recommended for further investigation with the production of uranium-based kernels.
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