Effect of neutron and ion irradiation on the metal matrix and oxide corrosion layer on Zr-1.0Nb cladding alloys

Jing Hu, Alistair Garner, Philipp Frankel, Meimei Li, Marquis A. Kirk, Sergio Lozano-Perez, Michael Preuss, Chris Grovenor

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A detailed study has been carried out on recrystallised Zr-1.0Nb alloys corroded and irradiated under different conditions, including ex-autoclave and ex-reactor samples. After 540 days in reactor and damage around 5 dpa, the neutron irradiated sample shows no serious evidence for radiation enhanced corrosion and is still in pre-transition stage. The good corrosion resistance of the neutron irradiated Zr-1.0Nb can be related to the higher volume fraction of tetragonal phase and fewer interconnected nano porosity/cracks in the oxide. This indicates less tetragonal to monoclinic transition, leads to more protective oxide in the neutron irradiated sample, containing little evidence for short circuit paths for the penetration of oxygen or water towards the metal-oxide interface. These observations on a sample with a slow overall oxidation rate are consistent with the hypothesis that interconnected porosity can lead to early transitions and rapid oxidation. Tetragonal oxide can be either stabilised by irradiation, or stabilised by local release of impurity species from SPPs such as dissolution of Fe from Zr-Nb-Fe precipitates or radiation introduced precipitates (RIPs)which is likely to be small β-Nb clusters. The oxide consists of well-aligned columnar-equiaxed microstructure in the autoclave sample while a more complex oxide grain structure was observed in the neutron-irradiated sample. As oxide continues to grow, there are more <a> and <c> loops, dissolved Fe and RIPs in the metal matrix, however, the corrosion rate is low enough for the tetragonal oxide to stabilise and suboxide + Zr(Osat)phases exist for protectiveness, so there is no enhanced corrosion after radiation. In situ ion irradiation in the TEM revealed no visible defect clusters or voids in the oxide, suggesting that radiation damage to the metal matrix rather than oxide may have a stronger effect on corrosion mechanisms after neutron irradiation, however, cascade damages are not visible in this case. Neutron irradiation also seems to have little effect on promoting fast oxidation or dissolution of β-Nb precipitates into the surrounding oxide or metal during irradiation. These results are discussed in the light of the current mechanisms for corrosion of nuclear fuel cladding alloys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-326
Number of pages14
JournalActa Materialia
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • (S)TEM
  • Irradiation damage
  • Porosity
  • Scanning precession electron diffraction (SPED)
  • Zr alloys Corrosion

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