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    Fracture Behavior and Microstructural Characteristics of Irradiated Zircaloy Cladding

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    Zircaloy cladding tube specimens from commercial power reactor fuel assemblies (burnup >22 MWd/kgU) have been deformed to fracture at 325°C by either the internal gas-pressurization or the expanding-mandrel technique in a helium or argon environment containing no fission product species (e.g., I, Cs, or Cd). The fracture surfaces of ten irradiated specimens fractured by internal gas pressurization were examined by scanning electron microscopy; six specimens were found to contain various degrees of the pseudocleavage feature that is characteristic of pellet-cladding interaction failures. Out of ten test specimens fractured by expanding-mandrel loading, five were found to contain regions of pseudocleavage on the fracture surfaces. The specimens exhibited “X-marks” on the outer surface and brittle incipient cracks distributed on the inner surface, which are also characteristic of pellet-cladding interaction failures. Transmission/high-voltage electron microscope examinations of the thin-foil specimens obtained from regions adjacent to the failure sites showed that the ductile-failure specimens were characterized by a high density of dislocations which showed normal →α-type Burgers vectors. In contrast, the brittle-type specimens were characterized by comparatively few dislocations which formed substructures. The dislocations in the brittle specimens were decorated by Zr3O precipitates 2 to 6 nm in size, and cubic-ZrO2 precipitates ≲ 10 nm in size were also observed in high density. These observations indicate a general immobilization of the dislocations. The low-ductility brittle-type failures appear to have been produced primarily as a result of the Zr3O and cubic-ZrO2 precipitates, augmented by precipitates of bulk hydride 35 to 100 nm in size. The bulk nature of these precipitates, which contrasts with the surficial nature of monoclinic ZrO2 and χ-hydride precipitates, was indicated from stereomicroscopy of weak-beam dark-field images. In situ irradiation of the spent-fuel cladding specimens by 1-MeV electrons at 325°C indicates that the Zr3O and cubic-ZrO2 precipitation is irradiation-induced, whereas the bulk hydride is not.


    Zircaloy, spent-fuel cladding, irradiation, precipitates, pellet-cladding interaction failure

    Author Information:

    Chung, HM
    Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL

    Yaggee, FL
    Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL

    Kassner, TF
    Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL

    Committee/Subcommittee: B10.05

    DOI: 10.1520/STP28158S