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Analysis of iron-chromium-aluminum samples exposed to accident conditions followed by quench in the QUENCH-19 experiment

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Journal of Nuclear Materials
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The QUENCH-19 experiment was a first-of-its-kind full-bundle test simulating accident conditions followed by water quench on accident-tolerant fuel (ATF) cladding. A type of FeCrAl(Y) alloy, B136Y3, was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and tested at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology using Kanthal APM corner rods, a shroud, and Kanthal AF spacer grids. Testing conditions were similar to those in QUENCH-15—which tested ZIRLO cladding behavior—so that B136Y3 and ZIRLO cladding could be compared. QUENCH-19 consisted of an initial pre-oxidation heating followed by a transient. Then, a maximum power hold, which was not present in QUENCH-15, was executed to extend the heating period for the FeCrAl(Y) rods. Finally, a rapid water quench was executed that was similar to emergency core coolant system (ECCS) actuation. Compared with the ZIRLO rods in QUENCH-15, the bundle in QUENCH-19 released significantly less H2 (9.2 g vs. 47.6 g) and achieved a much lower maximum temperature (1455°C vs. 1880°C). Furthermore, no breakaway oxidation was observed in QUENCH-19. Metallographic mounts revealed that despite the symmetry of the setup, at elevations near the maximum temperature, cladding and thermocouples were heavily damaged, substantial melting and oxidation occurred, and the cladding underwent chemical interaction with the thermocouple sheaths. Additionally, the ZrO2 spacers detrimentally interacted with the cladding, leading to mixed oxide debris and the full destruction of some rods. Additional failure was found in certain cooler rods that may have risen due to the high thermal expansion coefficient of FeCrAl alloys. This paper presents an analysis of this work, which suggests that FeCrAl cladding can chemically survive anticipated loss-of-coolant accident events followed by rapid ECCS quench if the correct geometry and core design are present.