Seven Years of Uranium Alloy Development at Weldon Spring, 1959/1966. Page: 24 of 47
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the 950 F. anneal had been completely effective in providing for a subsequent
fine-grained beta structure regardless of whether the anneal was for 20 hours
or 100 hours. The cooling rate, however, from the beta temperature salt bath
did influence the structure in that the brine quenches provided a finer grain
size than the oil quench. The data were quite conclusive that the combination
of an alpha anneal and a beta heat treatment would be simpler and more effective
than three successive beta treatments and that the.practice of casting ingots
oversize and alpha extruding could be virtually eliminated in favor of the
combination of anneal plus beta treatment.
EXPLORATION OF PHASE DIAGRAMS
The production experience with the iron-silicon alloy plus the experimental
work in heat treatment which has been described had clearly demonstrated that
uranium structure could be controlled by the formation of an appropriate
precipitate, but we were without explicit knowledge as to the exact identity of
the precipitates that were acting and whether other inter-metallic compounds
might be even more favorable. The British, for instance, had been using a
300 Fe-800 Al alloy for some time; and the French had been exploring more
complex alloys containing iron, silicon, aluminum, and chromium in more than
one modification. It appeared, therefore, if an understanding were to be gained
as to the most effective level of additive, the nature of the precipitates to
be expected, and whether these might be modified by substitutional introduction
of third elements, it was highly essential to undertake the delineation of the
high uranium region of a quaternary constitutional diagram, namely, U-Fe-Si-Al.
This involved first,. of course, the exploration in more detail of the uranium
end of the three binaries; U-Fe, U-Si, and U-Al. Knowledge of the three
ternaries would then be necessary (U-Fe-Si, U-Fe-Al, and U-Si-Al) to delineate
isothermal sections at assorted temperatures in the alpha, beta, and gamma phase
regions. The entire concept was viewed with sufficient interest within the-feed
material chain that portions of the work were undertaken in other laboratories
as well. Nuclear Metals, Inc. attacked the problem of identifying the U-Fe-Al
ternary, and the University.of Florida at Gainsville, under contract to the
National Lead Co. of Ohio at Fernald, undertook studies of the system U-Fe-Si-C.
Only that phase diagram work conducted at Weldon Spring, however, will be
described in this narrative.
While much can be learned concerning the identity of phases through metallo-
graphic examination of specimens that have been equilibrated at suitable
temperatures and through the use of X-ray diffraction data to confirm the
crystal structure of significant compounds in the phases visible, the identi-
fication of extremely small precipitates represents a special problem. Removal
of the particles by chemical attack in the hope of gaining a sufficient yield to
submit to X-ray analysis is sometimes possible but is- always open to question
since the particles,-removed may have been themselves altered in nature under the
chemical action. Furthermore, the.positive identification of different
particles of such "dust" in terms of the structures seen under the microscope
is not simple. Vibratory techniques to loosen specific particles for recovery
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Fellows, J. A. Seven Years of Uranium Alloy Development at Weldon Spring, 1959/1966., report, January 1, 1966; Weldon Spring, Missouri. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1033773/m1/24/: accessed March 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.