Inconel 625 is considered one of the candidate materials for reactor fuel cladding in the Canadian supercritical water reactor (SCWR) design. Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) is being evaluated as a joining technique for SCWR fuel cladding since this method is widely used to join components in the power and nuclear industry.
During the GTAW process, the welding thermal cycle produces different types of microstructures in both the heat-affected zone (HAZ) and fusion zone (FZ) that affect the material's mechanical properties. A series of welding experiments at various weld conditions were performed using an automatic GTAW orbital process on Inconel 625 alloy tubing. Simple analytical heat conduction and grain growth models were developed to predict weld temperature profiles and metallurgical transformations. Weld characterization included mechanical tests, optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy - energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) elemental analysis, and microhardness measurements. Weld microstructural characterization revealed that a characteristic dendritic structure was formed in the FZ, while the HAZ exhibited larger equiaxed grains than those found in the base material. SEM-EDS analysis showed no distinct alloying element segregation in both the HAZ and FZ. Welds produced with heat inputs of about 3.00 kJ/cm3 presented similar mechanical properties as those observed in the base material. In these welds, grain growth was homogenously minimized in the FZ. It is concluded that the effective welding heat input control can optimize the weld microstructure and the weld mechanical properties in Inconel 625 tubing used as Canadian SCWR reactor fuel cladding.