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    The Effect of Crystal Structure Stability on Swelling in Intermetallic Uranium Compounds

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    Irradiation experiments with certain low enrichment, high density, uranium-base intermetallic alloys that are candidate reactor fuel materials, such as U3Si and U6Fe, have revealed extraordinarily large voids at low and medium fuel burnup. This phenomenon of breakaway swelling does not occur in other fuel types, such as U3Si2 and UAl3, where a distribution of relatively small and stable fission gas bubbles forms. In situ transmission electron microscope observations of ion radiation-induced rapid swelling of intermetallic materials are consistent with growth by plastic flow. Large radiation enhancement of plastic flow in amorphous materials has been observed in several independent experiments and is thought to be a general materials phenomenon.

    The basis for a microscopic theory of fission gas bubble behavior in irradiated amorphous compounds has been formulated. The assumption underlying the overall theory is that the evolution of the porosity from that observed in the crystalline material to that observed in irradiated amorphous U3Si as a function of fluence is due to a softening of the irradiated amorphous material. Bubble growth in the low viscosity material has been approximated by an effective enhanced diffusivity. Mechanisms are included for the radiation-induced softening of the amorphous material and for a relation between gas atom mobilities and radiation-induced (defect-generated) changes in the material. Results of the analysis indicate that the observed rapid swelling in U3Si arises directly from enhanced bubble migration and coalescence due to plastic flow.


    amorphous, swelling, U, 3, Si, bubbles, radiation-induced amorphization, U, 3, Si, 2, gas-driven swelling, softening

    Author Information:

    Rest, Jeffrey
    Physicist, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL

    Hofman, Gerard L.
    Senior metallurgist, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL

    Birtcher, Robert C.
    Physicist, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL

    Committee/Subcommittee: E10.07

    DOI: 10.1520/STP49492S