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Dispersal of high-burnup fuel fragment surrogate particles during and after loss-of-coolant accident tests

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Nuclear Engineering and Design
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The issue of fuel fragmentation, relocation, and dispersal is critical in the licensing and use of high-burnup (>62 GWd/MTU) nuclear fuel in light water reactors (LWRs). In this work, two test series are reported that examine the fragment dispersal during a burst event and an additional dispersal following the burst due to vibrations in the rod, such as those induced by accident recovery systems. To examine dispersal during the balloon and burst portion of a Loss-of-Coolant Accident event, HfO2 fragments and yttria-stabilized zirconia pellets were filled into an as-fabricated cladding tube, which was then pressurized and subjected to loss-of-coolant accident testing in steam. Results from this test were found to be highly non-prototypic, and dispersal was both significantly more violent and significantly greater in magnitude than identified for actual fuel tests. These findings were attributed to the conservative (more dispersive) nature of the particles chosen for dispersal and to the details of the test conditions used that led to particularly wide bursts. The second set of tests examined dispersal following the burst when vibrations were induced in the rod, primarily via recovery activities such as Emergency Core Cooling System actuation leading to rapid water addition. Post-burst dispersal testing was performed by inducing sinusoidal oscillations with 2–25 nm peak-to-peak amplitude and 2–5 Hz frequencies in pre-burst rods that had been refilled with HfO2 fragments or high-burnup fragment surrogate mixture of HfO2 fragments and yttria-stabilized zirconia sands. Testing revealed that rods with large burst openings (7 mm wide in this work) led to unmitigated dispersal from above the burst zone but that smaller bursts (5 mm wide), although still much larger than the mean fragment size of 3 mm, led to effectively no dispersal because of interparticle locking. Additionally, mixture and moisture were found to impact the amount of dispersal: mixtures increased dispersal, and moisture drastically reduced it. The implications of these findings on likely dispersal from actual fuel are discussed.