To determine if delayed hydride cracking (DHC) can be the cause of the long axial cracks occasionally found in BWR fuel cladding, a systematic study of DHC in Zircaloy cladding has begun. In the initial stage of the project, a test technique was developed and applied to unirradiated samples of Zircaloy. The present study includes an investigation of the influence of the yield strength and temperature on the crack growth rate and the threshold stress intensity that must be exceeded before cracking begins.
Recrystallized (RXA) Zircaloy-2 has been compared to stress relief annealed (SRA) Zircaloy-2 with similar texture and composition. The results show that the crack propagation rate increases with increasing yield strength at similar stress intensity levels by as much as a decade when the yield strength is tripled. The maximum crack propagation rate measured in this study is ∼6 × 10-7 m/s. The threshold stress intensity, KIH, was found to decrease with increasing yield stress. The measured threshold values are in the range of 13.5 to 7.5 MPa. These figures are close to theoretically derived values using a critical fracture stress criterion of the hydrides as the limiting factor. The incubation period before cracking begins is found to be longer at 200°C than it is at 300°C.