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Enhancing Nuclear Safety



Transient fuel behavior and failure condition in the CABRI-2 experiments

I. Sato, F. Lemoine, D. Struwe, Nuclear Technology, Vol 145, Jan. 2004 pp 115-137


In the CABRI-2 program, 12 tests were performed under various transient conditions covering a wide range of accident scenarios using two types of pre-irradiated fast breeder reactor (FBR) fuel pins with different smear densities and burn-ups. For each fuel, a non-failure-transient test was performed and it provided basic information such as fuel thermal condition, fuel swelling and gas release. From the failure tests, information on failure mode, failure time and axial location was obtained. Based on this information, failure conditions such as fuel enthalpy and cladding temperature were evaluated. These failure conditions were compared with the CABRI-1 tests in which different fuels as well as different transient conditions were used. This comparison, together with supporting information available from existing in-pile and out-of-pile experiments, allowed an effective understanding on failure mechanisms depending on fuel and transient conditions. It is concluded that pellet cladding mechanical interaction (PCMI) due to fuel thermal expansion and fission-gas-induced swelling is playing an important role on mechanical clad loading especially with high smear density and low fuel-heating-rate conditions. At very high heating-rate conditions, there is no sufficient time to allow significant fuel swelling, so that cavity pressurization with fuel melting becomes the likely failure mechanism. Fuel smear density and fission-gas retention have a strong impact both on PCMI and cavity pressurization. Furthermore, pin failure is strongly dependent on cladding temperature, which plays an important role in the axial failure location. With the low smear-density fuel, considerable PCMI mitigation is possible leading to a high failure threshold as well as in-pin molten-fuel relocation along the central hole. However, even with the low smear density fuel, PCMI failure could take place with an elevated cladding-temperature condition. On the other hand, in case of a sufficiently long transient time scale, such low smear density fuel has a potential to allow gas escape to plenum leading to a very effective mitigation of swelling-induced PCMI.
In case of very high cladding temperature near its melting point, plenum-gas blowout at cladding rupture takes place before fuel disintegration. Fuel-disintegration behavior under this condition is dominated by fuel enthalpy and no special effect of the high burn-up can be identified through comparison with the CABRI-1 test results.
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