Waterside corrosion of zirconium alloy nuclear fuel cladding varies markedly from one alloy to another. In addition, for a given alloy, the corrosion rate evolves during the corrosion process, most notably when the oxide loses its stability at the oxide transition. In an effort to understand the mechanism resulting in the variations of corrosion rate observed at the oxide transition, oxide layers formed on Zircaloy-4 and ZIRLO™ in high temperature water autoclave environments, and archived before and after the transition, are characterized using transmission electron microscopy. The study characterizes and compares the oxide morphology in both alloys at different times during the corrosion process, in an effort to understand the oxide growth mechanism for these alloys. Results show that the oxide is mainly composed of monoclinic ZrO21, with a preponderance of columnar oxide grains which extend to the oxide/metal interface. The oxide formed right after the transition has occurred, exhibits a 150 nm-wide layer of small equiaxed grains with high tetragonal oxide fraction. This layer has a similar morphology and structure as the first oxide layer formed (observed near the oxide/water interface). A study of the oxygen-rich region near the oxide/metal interface reveals a complex structure of different phases at different stages of corrosion. The interface exhibits an intermediate layer, identified as ZrO, a discontinuous layer of "blocky" Zr3O grains embedded in the ZrO layer, and a suboxide layer corresponding to an oxygen saturated solid solution in the metal matrix side. The thickness of this interfacial layer decreased markedly at the transition. Hydrides are also observed in that region, with a definite orientation relationship with the matrix. The observations of the oxide/metal interface are qualitatively similar for the two alloys but quantitatively different. The incorporation of intermetallic precipitates into the oxide layer is also studied, and compared between the two alloys. These results are discussed in terms of previous observations and of current models of oxide growth.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nuclear and High Energy Physics
- Materials Science(all)
- Nuclear Energy and Engineering