Cold spray Cr-coated Optimized ZIRLO claddings: an option for accident tolerant fuels
Accident tolerant fuel development has started with the aim of providing nuclear fuels able to endure severe accident conditions. Research in this field has also sparked a wave of material renewal in the nuclear industry that had being delayed for the last few decades. Climate change is an ever-growing public concern, and policies about greenhouse gas emissions are becoming more stringent both at the national and international level. Nuclear energy produces very low carbon emissions and the successful development of new accident tolerant materials might play a role in making this technology a viable solution to this global issue. Cr-coated zirconium claddings are one of the most promising candidates as near-term response to the need for accident tolerant materials. These coatings can be produced via a range of different technologies, but the two main designs being currently developed are obtained with physical vapour deposition or cold spray (CS) deposition. In cold spray, high pressure gas is fed through a nozzle together with Cr powder. The Cr particles are accelerated up to 1200 m/s and directed to the substrate, in this case cladding tubes made of Optimized ZIRLO™ alloy. The resulting Cr-coated zirconium cladding is the subject of this work. As-fabricated samples and autoclave tested material are characterized with atom probe tomography and a range of electron microscopy techniques. The scope of the investigation is to evaluate the performances of Cr-coated claddings under operating conditions. Additionally, the nature of the adhesion in cold spray coating and the effects of this deposition method on the substrate are explored. A 10-20 nm thick intermixed bonding region was observed at the Cr/Zr interface of the as-fabricated cladding. This region is deemed to play an important role in the strong adhesion of CS coatings. When exposed to operating conditions, ZrCr2-Laves phase was found to nucleate in the intermixed bonding region. CS deposition involves severe plastic deformation of both coating and substrate. As a result, a 1-2 μm thick nanocrystalline layer can be found in the substrate adjacent to the Cr/Zr interface. After autoclave exposure, a Zr-Cr-Fe phase was discovered precipitating in this nanocrystalline layer at the Zr grain boundaries.
atom probe tomography
accident tolerant fuel