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Title: Radiation-induced Swelling and Microcracking in SiC Cladding for LWRs

Abstract

After the Fukushima accident in 2011, SiC has attracted considerable attention as a potential material for fuel cladding that can offer increased accident tolerance in light water reactors (LWRs) compared to zircaloy cladding. Existing measurements on nuclear grade SiC/SiC composites made of high-purity, stoichiometric SiC have already shown very good radiation tolerance in various harsh environments. However, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed before SiC composites can be successfully used in LWR technologies. One of them is irradiation-induced swelling, which can lead to development of significant stresses in the matrix, followed by microcracking and subsequent release of fission products. Models of irradiation-induced swelling had been largely empirical and therefore they cannot be used to predict the microstructural dependence of microcracking. Existing models are also limited by the lack of understanding of defects that form due to irradiation in the range of temperatures relevant to fuel cladding in LWRs (<1000°C). Many of the defects in this regime of temperature are too small to be detected with traditional transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques. In fact the defects observed in traditional TEM account only for 10-45% of the swelling measured in irradiated SiC. Here, we developed a multi-scalemore » simulation methodology combined with state of the art experimental imaging techniques based on aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) to provide a scientific basis for predictive models of radiation swelling and microcracking in SiC. Specifically, we have developed a phase field fracture model that predicts microcrack initiation and growth in polycrystalline SiC. The model accounts for single crystal anisotropy, including anisotropy in the elastic constants and anisotropic surface energy. It also considers the reduced fracture strength of grain boundaries. The model was implemented using the MARMOT mesoscale nuclear materials tool. We have parameterized the model for SiC using molecular dynamics simulation results. The model has been verified using single crystal, bicrystal, and polycrystal examples. Swelling model has also been developed based on cluster dynamics simulations of defect evolution in SiC. We found that point defects and small defect clusters have a significant contribution to swelling. This finding is important because point defects and very small defect clusters are not visible in experiments (e.g., in TEM). Combined modeling and experiments can bring critical insights into how swelling depends on irradiation conditions and the microstructure. In situ nanoindentation tests and ex situ nanoindentation tests were performed on assynthesized 3C-SiC and 3C-SiC irradiated under different radiation conditions. Without radiation, bend contour movement and residual bend contours after indentation demonstrate some room temperature plastic flow and residual plastic deformation. Plastic deformation recovery is also observed on unirradiated samples during unloading. Radiation-induced embrittlement is demonstrated by differences in crack geometry in in situ tests, and is consistent with ex situ test results. Failure by single, straight, cracks indicates decreased fracture toughness due to irradiation in 3C-SiC. Future work includes coupling of the swelling and fracture models and development of a master equation that can be used in the BISON code.« less

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE)
OSTI Identifier:
1573893
Report Number(s):
15-8243
15-8243
DOE Contract Number:  
NE0008418
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Szlufarska, Izabela, Voyles, Paul, and Tonks, Michael. Radiation-induced Swelling and Microcracking in SiC Cladding for LWRs. United States: N. p., 2019. Web. doi:10.2172/1573893.
Szlufarska, Izabela, Voyles, Paul, & Tonks, Michael. Radiation-induced Swelling and Microcracking in SiC Cladding for LWRs. United States. doi:10.2172/1573893.
Szlufarska, Izabela, Voyles, Paul, and Tonks, Michael. Wed . "Radiation-induced Swelling and Microcracking in SiC Cladding for LWRs". United States. doi:10.2172/1573893. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1573893.
@article{osti_1573893,
title = {Radiation-induced Swelling and Microcracking in SiC Cladding for LWRs},
author = {Szlufarska, Izabela and Voyles, Paul and Tonks, Michael},
abstractNote = {After the Fukushima accident in 2011, SiC has attracted considerable attention as a potential material for fuel cladding that can offer increased accident tolerance in light water reactors (LWRs) compared to zircaloy cladding. Existing measurements on nuclear grade SiC/SiC composites made of high-purity, stoichiometric SiC have already shown very good radiation tolerance in various harsh environments. However, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed before SiC composites can be successfully used in LWR technologies. One of them is irradiation-induced swelling, which can lead to development of significant stresses in the matrix, followed by microcracking and subsequent release of fission products. Models of irradiation-induced swelling had been largely empirical and therefore they cannot be used to predict the microstructural dependence of microcracking. Existing models are also limited by the lack of understanding of defects that form due to irradiation in the range of temperatures relevant to fuel cladding in LWRs (<1000°C). Many of the defects in this regime of temperature are too small to be detected with traditional transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques. In fact the defects observed in traditional TEM account only for 10-45% of the swelling measured in irradiated SiC. Here, we developed a multi-scale simulation methodology combined with state of the art experimental imaging techniques based on aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) to provide a scientific basis for predictive models of radiation swelling and microcracking in SiC. Specifically, we have developed a phase field fracture model that predicts microcrack initiation and growth in polycrystalline SiC. The model accounts for single crystal anisotropy, including anisotropy in the elastic constants and anisotropic surface energy. It also considers the reduced fracture strength of grain boundaries. The model was implemented using the MARMOT mesoscale nuclear materials tool. We have parameterized the model for SiC using molecular dynamics simulation results. The model has been verified using single crystal, bicrystal, and polycrystal examples. Swelling model has also been developed based on cluster dynamics simulations of defect evolution in SiC. We found that point defects and small defect clusters have a significant contribution to swelling. This finding is important because point defects and very small defect clusters are not visible in experiments (e.g., in TEM). Combined modeling and experiments can bring critical insights into how swelling depends on irradiation conditions and the microstructure. In situ nanoindentation tests and ex situ nanoindentation tests were performed on assynthesized 3C-SiC and 3C-SiC irradiated under different radiation conditions. Without radiation, bend contour movement and residual bend contours after indentation demonstrate some room temperature plastic flow and residual plastic deformation. Plastic deformation recovery is also observed on unirradiated samples during unloading. Radiation-induced embrittlement is demonstrated by differences in crack geometry in in situ tests, and is consistent with ex situ test results. Failure by single, straight, cracks indicates decreased fracture toughness due to irradiation in 3C-SiC. Future work includes coupling of the swelling and fracture models and development of a master equation that can be used in the BISON code.},
doi = {10.2172/1573893},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2019},
month = {7}
}