An attempt for a unified description of mechanical testing on Zircaloy-4 cladding subjected to simulated LOCA transient
PSN-RES/SEREX/LE2M, IRSN, Bâtiment 327, BP 3, 13115 Saint-Paul-Lez-Durance, France
⁎ e-mail: email@example.com
Received in final form: 20 January 2016
Accepted: 28 January 2016
Published online: 25 March 2016
During a Loss Of Coolant Accident (LOCA), an important safety requirement is that the reflooding of the core by the emergency core cooling system should not lead to a complete rupture of the fuel rods. Several types of mechanical tests are usually performed in the industry to determine the degree of cladding embrittlement, such as ring compression tests or four-point bending of rodlets. Many other tests can be found in the open literature. However, there is presently no real intrinsic understanding of the failure conditions in these tests which would allow translation of the results from one kind of mechanical testing to another. The present study is an attempt to provide a unified description of the failure not directly depending on the tested geometry. This effort aims at providing a better understanding of the link between several existing safety criteria relying on very different mechanical testing. To achieve this objective, the failure mechanisms of pre-oxidized and pre-hydrided cladding samples are characterized by comparing the behavior of two different mechanical tests: Axial Tensile (AT) test and “C”-shaped Ring Compression Test (CCT). The failure of samples in both cases can be described by usual linear elastic fracture mechanics theory. Using interrupted mechanical tests, metallographic examinations have evidenced that a set of parallel cracks are nucleated at the inner and outer surface of the samples just before failure, crossing both the oxide layer and the oxygen rich alpha layer. The stress intensity factors for multiple crack geometry are determined for both AT and CCT samples using finite element calculations. After each mechanical test performed on high temperature steam oxidized samples, metallography is then used to individually determine the crack depth and crack spacing. Using these two important parameters and considering the applied load at fracture, the stress intensity factor at failure is derived for each tested sample. This procedure provides an assessment scheme to determine experimentally the fracture toughness of the prior-β region in the mid-wall of the oxidized samples. The obtained fracture toughness for CCT and AT samples are thus compared, confirming that the linear elastic fracture mechanics is a relevant tool to describe the strength of LOCA embrittled cladding alloys.
© J. Desquines et al., published by EDP Sciences, 2016
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