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Characterization of the radial microstructural evolution in LWR UO2 using electron backscatter diffraction

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Journal of Nuclear Materials
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Studies on high burnup UO2 subjected to loss-of-coolant accident conditions have shown that restructured regions of the fuel are susceptible to pulverization and eventual dispersal. Due to a lack of pre-test characterization, the distinct microstructural features rendering the fuel prone to fragmentation remain ambiguous. Four samples of commercially irradiated light-water reactor UO2 have been characterized utilizing electron backscatter diffraction to assess the susceptible microstructure. The microscopy focused on determining the burnup and temperature conditions responsible for the formation of the different microstructural regions where the regions were denoted as the high-burnup structure (HBS), HBS transition, mid-radial, restructured central, and central region. Previous works have outlined the specific conditions required for the restructuring of the microstructure into the HBS, but the conditions responsible for the restructuring in the central region of the fuel are not well understood. The four analyzed samples confirm a burnup threshold of 61 GWd/tU, and an unknown temperature range is needed to facilitate the formation of the restructured central region. Additional fuel performance evaluations are needed to quantify the temperature range promoting restructuring in the central region.