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Influence of temperature and hydrogen content on stress-induced radial hydride precipitation in Zircaloy-4 cladding

​​Journal of Nuclear Materials / Volume 453, issues 1-3, pages 131-150, October 2014

Summary

​​Radial hydride precipitation in stress relieved Zircaloy-4 fuel claddings is studied using a new thermal–mechanical test. Two maximum temperatures for radial hydride precipitation heat treatment are studied, 350 and 450 °C with hydrogen contents ranging between 50 and 600 wppm. The new test provides two main results of interest: the minimum hoop stress required to precipitate radial hydrides and a maximum stress above which, all hydrides precipitate in the radial direction. Based on these two extreme stress conditions, a model is derived to determine the stress level required to obtain a given fraction of radial hydrides after high temperature thermal–mechanical heat treatment. The proposed model is validated using metallographic observation data on pressurized tubes cooled down under constant pressure. Most of the samples with reoriented hydrides are further subjected to a ductility test. Using finite element modeling, the test results are analyzed in terms of crack nucleation within radial hydrides at the outer diameter and crack growth through the thickness of the tubular samples. The combination of test results shows that samples with hydrogen contents of about 100 wppm had the lowest ductility.

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