Zirconium alloys are typically used in nuclear pressurized water reactors (PWR) as fuel cladding tubes due to their chemical stability and their mechanical strength at operating temperatures (≈300 C). However, the corrosion of Zr-based cladding tubes is one of the factors limiting the burn-off rate in PWRs. It is commonly accepted that the corrosion kinetics involves a periodic succession of growth where the oxide thickness varies parabolically with time. As the oxide thickens, a cracking structure forms. The oxide appears striated with periodic layers of cracks running parallel to the metal/oxide interface. This cracking structure has been experimentally related to the periodicity of the oxide growth. In the present work, a finite-element study is used to investigate the development of stresses in the oxide under the combined influence of molar volume expansion during oxide formation, metal/oxide interface geometry and metallic substrate creep. The generation of tensile stresses capable of initiating the cracks that are observed experimentally is explored.
- Failure Zircaloy-4
- Metal/oxide interface undulations
- Oxide cracks