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Microstructure evolution in ion-irradiated oxidized Zircaloy-4 studied with synchrotron radiation micro-diffraction and transmission electron microscopy

Abstract : The corrosion process (oxidation and hydriding) of the zirconium alloy cladding is one of the limiting factors on the fuel rod lifetime, in particular for the Zircaloy-4 alloy. The corrosion rate of this alloy shows indeed a great acceleration at high burn-up in Light Water Reactors. Understanding the corrosion behavior under irradiation for this alloy is an important technological issue for the safety and efficiency of LWRs. In particular, understanding the effect of irradiation on the metal and the oxide layers is a key parameter in the study of corrosion behavior of zirconium alloys. Zircaloy-4 samples have undergone helium and proton ion-irradiation up to 0.3 dpa forming a uniform defect distribution up to 1 µm deep. Both as-received and pre-corroded samples have been irradiated in order to compare the effect of metal irradiation to that of oxide layer irradiation. After irradiation, samples have been corroded in order to study the impact of irradiation defects in the metal and in pre-existing oxide layers on the formation of new oxide layers. Synchrotron X-ray micro-diffraction and micro-fluorescence are used to follow the evolution of oxide crystallographic phases, texture and stoichiometry both in the metal and in the oxide in cross-section. In particular, the tetragonal oxide phase fraction, which has been known to have an important role on corrosion behavior, is mapped in both unirradiated and irradiated metal at the sub-micron scale and appears to be significantly affected by irradiation. These observations, complemented with electron microscopy analyses on samples in carefully chosen areas of interest are combined in order to fully characterize changes due to irradiation in metal and oxide phases of both alloys.
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K. Colas-Leroux, R. Verlet, M. Tupin, Z. Cai, K. Wolski, et al.. Microstructure evolution in ion-irradiated oxidized Zircaloy-4 studied with synchrotron radiation micro-diffraction and transmission electron microscopy. 18th International Symposium on Zirconium in the Nuclear Industry, May 2016, Hilton Head, United States. ⟨cea-02438725⟩

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