Safe shipment and storage of nuclear reactor discharged fuel requires an understanding of how the fuel may perform under the various conditions that can be encountered. One specific focus of concern is performance during a shipment drop accident. Tests at Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) are being performed to characterize the properties of fuel clad relative to a mechanical accident condition such as a container drop. Unirradiated ZIRLO tubing samples have been charged with a range of hydride levels to simulate actual fuel rod levels. Samples of the hydrogen charged tubes were exposed to a radial hydride growth treatment (RHGT) consisting of heating to 400°C, applying initial hoop stresses of 90 to 170 MPa with controlled cooling and producing hydride precipitates. Initial samples have been tested using both a) ring compression test (RCT) which is shown to be sensitive to radial hydride and b) three-point bend tests which are less sensitive to radial hydride effects.
Hydrides are generated in Zirconium based fuel cladding as a result of coolant (water) oxidation of the clad, hydrogen release, and a portion of the released (nascent) hydrogen absorbed into the clad and eventually exceeding the hydrogen solubility limit. The orientation of the hydrides relative to the subsequent normal and accident strains has a significant impact on the failure susceptability. In this study the impacts of stress, temperature and hydrogen levels are evaluated in reference to the propensity for hydride reorientation from the circumferential to the radial orientation. In addition the effects of radial hydrides on the Quasi Ductile Brittle Transition Temperature (DBTT) were measured. The results suggest that a) the severity of the radial hydride impact is related to the hydrogen level-peak temperature combination (for example at a peak drying temperature of 400°C; 800 PPM hydrogen has less of an impact/ less radial hydride fraction than 200 PPM hydrogen for the same thermal history) and b) for critical strains in post drying handling, storage and accident conditions the 3 point bend strain tolerance is less affected by radial hydrides than the conventional ring compression test (the radial hydride related Quasi DBTT associated with a three point bend straining is lower (better) than that measured by the ring compression tests).