An understanding of the limiting stress level for crack initiation and propagation in a fuel cladding material is a fundamental requirement for the development of water reactor clad materials. Conventional tests, in use to evaluate fracture properties, are of limited help, because they are adapted from ASTM standards designed for thick materials, which differ significantly from fuel cladding geometry (small diameter thin-walled tubing). The Internal Conical Mandrel (1CM) test described here is designed to simulate the effect of fuel pellet diametrical increase on a cladding with an existing axial throughwall crack. It consists in forcing a cone, having a tapered increase in diameter, inside the Zircaloy cladding with an initial axial crack. The aim of this work is to quantify the crack initiation and propagation criteria for fuel cladding material. The crack propagation is monitored by a video system for obtaining crack extension δa. A finite-element (FE) simulation of the ICM test is performed in order to derive J integrals. A node release technique is applied during the FE simulation for crack propagation and the J-resistance curves (J-δa) are generated. This paper presents the test methodology, the J computation validation, and results for cold-worked stress relieved Zircaloy-4 cladding at 20° and 300°C and also for Al 7050-T7651 aluminum alloy tubing at 20°C.
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