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Title: SiC-CMC-Zircaloy-4 Nuclear Fuel Cladding Performance during 4-Point Tubular Bend Testing

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE NE) established the Light Water Reactor Sustainability (LWRS) program to develop technologies and other solutions to improve the reliability, sustain the safety, and extend the life of current reactors. The Advanced LWR Nuclear Fuel Development Pathway in the LWRS program encompasses strategic research focused on improving reactor core economics and safety margins through the development of an advanced fuel cladding system. Recent investigations of potential options for “accident tolerant” nuclear fuel systems point to the potential benefits of silicon carbide (SiC) cladding. One of the proposed SiC-based fuel cladding designs being investigated incorporates a SiC ceramic matrix composite (CMC) as a structural material supplementing an internal Zircaloy-4 (Zr-4) liner tube, referred to as the hybrid clad design. Characterization of the advanced cladding designs will include a number of out-of-pile (nonnuclear) tests, followed by in-pile irradiation testing of the most promising designs. One of the out-of-pile characterization tests provides measurement of the mechanical properties of the cladding tube using four point bend testing. Although the material properties of the different subsystems (materials) will be determined separately, in this paper we present results of 4-point bending tests performed on fully assembled hybridmore » cladding tube mock-ups, an assembled Zr-4 cladding tube mock-up as a standard and initial testing results on bare SiC-CMC sleeves to assist in defining design parameters. The hybrid mock-up samples incorporated SiC-CMC sleeves fabricated with 7 polymer impregnation and pyrolysis (PIP) cycles. To provide comparative information; both 1- and 2-ply braided SiC-CMC sleeves were used in this development study. Preliminary stress simulations were performed using the BISON nuclear fuel performance code to show the stress distribution differences for varying lengths between loading points and clad configurations. The 2-ply sleeve samples show a higher bend momentum compared to those of the 1-ply sleeve samples. This is applicable to both the hybrid mock-up and bare SiC-CMC sleeve samples. Comparatively both the 1- and 2-ply hybrid mock-up samples showed a higher bend stiffness and strength compared with the standard Zr-4 mock-up sample. The characterization of the hybrid mock-up samples showed signs of distress and preliminary signs of fraying at the protective Zr-4 sleeve areas for the 1-ply SiC-CMC sleeve. In addition, the microstructure of the SiC matrix near the cracks at the region of highest compressive bending strain shows significant cracking and flaking. The 2-ply SiC-CMC sleeve samples showed a more bonded, cohesive SiC matrix structure. This cracking and fraying causes concern for increased fretting during the actual use of the design. Tomography was proven as a successful tool to identify open porosity during pre-test characterization. Although there is currently insufficient data to make conclusive statements regarding the overall merit of the hybrid cladding design, preliminary characterization of this novel design has been demonstrated.« less
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Conference: LWR Fuel Performance meeting/Top Fuel 2013,Charlotte , NC, USA,09/15/2013,09/19/2013
Research Org:
Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
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Country of Publication:
United States
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; SiC-CMC hybrid fuel cladding, 4-point bend test