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Microstructure and Properties of a Three-Layer Nuclear Fuel Cladding Prototype Containing Erbium as a Neutronic Burnable Poison

Abstract : To increase cycle length and/or fuel burnup, several theoretical and experimental studies have been performed at CEA. Among them, prospective neutronic calculations have shown that the addition of a few weight percents of erbium into the cladding materials could be a promising alternative to the introduction of the neutronic poison directly into the nuclear fuel pellets. Thus, fabrication of homogeneous Zr-Er alloys has been assessed, at least up to 10 wt. % of erbium and, based on the as-received mechanical properties, an optimum erbium concentration ranging from 3 to 6 wt. % has been derived. However, because of the high-oxygen thermodynamic affinity of erbium, thermal treatments have to be controlled during the fabrication route to limit Er2O3 precipitation and coarsening, which may have detrimental effects on the ductility/toughness of Zr-Er alloys. In parallel, to get more fundamental insights into the underlying phase diagrams, thermodynamic studies have been devoted to experimental assessment and modeling of the Zr-Er-(H-O) system. Because of the detrimental influence of erbium on the corrosion resistance, a three-layer sandwich clad prototype has been developed using corrosion-resistant inner/outer Zr-1Nb layers to protect the intermediate Zr-Er layer from direct water exposure. Compared to a reference Zr-1Nb(O) alloy that has been subjected to the same fabrication route, the three-layer clad prototype shows limited decrease in ductility because of pre-hydriding or after high-temperature steam oxidation e.g., in the case of a loss-of-coolant accident). Moreover, the studies performed so far have shown a spectacular hydride trapping capacity of the intermediate Zr-Er layer both for hydrogen coming from nominal outer corrosion or because of massive secondary hydriding in case of the direct access of water to the Zr-Er intermediate layer. Using μ-ERDA (elastic recoil detection analysis) measurements, detailed studies of the hydrogen spatial redistribution upon thermal cycling has been done. A simple model has been successfully used to characterize the cooling rate influence on the through-wall clad thickness partitioning of hydrogen/hydrides between the three layers, after cooling from a temperature corresponding to full dissolution of hydrides
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Submitted on : Monday, January 11, 2016 - 10:26:06 AM
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Jean-Christophe Brachet, Patrick Olier, Valérie Vandenberghe, Sylvie Doriot, Stéphane Urvoy, et al.. Microstructure and Properties of a Three-Layer Nuclear Fuel Cladding Prototype Containing Erbium as a Neutronic Burnable Poison. 17th International Symposium on Zirconium in the Nuclear Industry, Feb 2013, Hyderabad, India. pp.184-224, ⟨10.1520/STP154320130053⟩. ⟨cea-01253623⟩



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