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Evolution of thermo-physical properties and annealing of fast neutron irradiated boron carbide

Abstract : Boron carbide is widely used as a neutron absorber in most nuclear reactors, in particular in fast neutron ones. The irradiation leads to a large helium production (up to 10$^{22}$/cm$^3$) together with a strong decrease of the thermal conductivity. In this paper, we have performed thermal diffusivity measurements and X-ray diffraction analyses on boron carbide samples coming from control rods of the French Phenix LMFBR reactor. The burnups range from 10$^{21}$ to 8.10$^{21}$/cm$^3$. We first confirm the strong decrease of the thermal conductivity at the low burnup, together with high microstructural modifications: swelling, large micro strains, high defects density, and disordered-like material conductivity. We observe the microstructural parameters are highly anisotropic, with high micro-strains and flattened coherent diffracting domains along the (00l) direction of the hexagonal structure. Performing heat treatments up to high temperature (2200°C) allows us to observe the material thermal conductivity and microstructure restoration. It then appears the thermal conductivity healing is correlated to the micro-strain relaxation. We then assume the defects responsible for most of the damage are the helium bubbles and the associated stress fields.
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D. Gosset, B. Kryger, J.-P. Bonal, C. Verdeau, K. Froment. Evolution of thermo-physical properties and annealing of fast neutron irradiated boron carbide. The Nuclear Materials Conference, 2016 – NUMAT 2016, Nov 2016, Montpellier, France. ⟨cea-02435072⟩

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