Since the Fukushima incident in 2011, the nuclear industry has sought to replace Zircaloy fuel cladding with a material which will better withstand a beyond-design-basis incident. A suitable material must possess superior oxidation resistance in high temperature steam (1200-1700) to withstand a loss of coolant accident, while maintaining good hydrothermal corrosion properties for environmental compatibility during normal operating conditions (288-320C water). In addition to corrosion issues, a suitable material must also demonstrate sufficient mechanical strength, creep resistance, radiation tolerance, and favorable neutronics.
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are engaged in testing of two leading candidates for accident tolerant fuel cladding: iron-chomium-aluminum (FeCrAl) alloys, and silicon carbide ceramic matrix composites (SiC/SiC). FeCrAl alloys have shown excellent oxidation resistance due to the formation of a passive alumina film in high temperature steam, and a protective Fe-Cr spinel layer in water. SiC/SiC has shown excellent corrosive properties in high temperature steam, but a tendency to dissolve in LWR water. To improve performance of SiC normal operating conditions, several candidate coatings are being considered, including Cr, CrN, and TiN.
This work presents results of hydrothermal corrosion experiments on FeCrAl alloys and coated SiC in boiling water reactor hydrogen water chemistry (BWR-HWC) and normal water chemistry (BWR-NWC) (288C with 150 ppb H2 or 2 ppm O2 respectively). FeCrAl samples generally exhibited low corrosion rates. Hydrothermal corrosion properties of current FeCrAl alloys are compared to older generations. CVD-SiC and SiC/SiC exhibited significant mass loss during exposure. SiC samples coated with Cr and CrN adhered well to their substrates, and effectively mitigated dissolution, with acceptable corrosion rates.
This work was funded by the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy Advanced Fuels Campaign