Among the laser inertial fusion-fission energy (LIFE) engine concepts being considered at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), weapons-grade plutonium (WGPu) LIFE is of particular interest because it is designed to burn excess WGPu material and achieve over 99% fraction of initial metal atoms (FIMAs). At the center of the LIFE concept lies a point source of 14MeV neutrons produced by inertial-confinement fusion (ICF) which drives a sub-critical fuel blanket located behind a neutron multiplier. Current design envisions tristructural isotropic (TRISO) particles embedded in a graphite matrix as fuel and Be as multiplier, both in pebble bed form and flowing in Flibe molten salt coolant. In previous work, neutron lifetime modeling and design of Be pebbles was discussed [10]. Constitutive equations were derived and a design criteria were developed for spherical Be pebbles on the basis of their thermo-mechanical behaviour under continued neutron exposure in the neutron multiplier for the LIFE engine. Utilizing the available material property data, Be pebbles lifetime could be estimated to be a minimum of 6 years. Here, we investigate the thermo-mechanical response of TRISO particles used for incineration of WUPu under LIFE operating conditions of high temperature and high neutron fast fluence. To this purpose, we make use of the thermo-mechanical fuel performance code HUPPCO, which is currently under development. The model accounts for spatial and time dependence of the material elastic properties, temperature, and irradiation swelling and creep mechanisms. Preliminary results show that the lifetime of WGPu TRISO particles is affected by changes in the fuel materials properties in time. At high fuel burnup, retention of fission products relies on the SiC containment boundary behavior as a minute pressure vessel. The discussion underlines the need to develop high-fidelity models of the performance of these new fuel designs, especially in the absence of a fast neutron source to test these fuels under relevant conditions.

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