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Empirical and mechanistic transient fission gas release model for high-burnup LOCA conditions

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Journal of Nuclear Materials
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In response to the nuclear industry desire to extend burnup beyond current licensing practices, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a research information letter (RIL) that provides a basis for analyzing fuel fragmentation, relocation, and dispersal (FFRD) in light-water reactors. Of the five elements discussed, the most ambiguous is the significance of transient fission gas (FG) release (FGR) (tFGR) and its effects on fuel performance under loss-of-coolant accident conditions. In fresh fuel, FG migration and eventual release is primarily governed by diffusion-based mechanisms at higher temperatures (>1,000 °C). However, the mechanisms governing FGR changes as burnup increases. More recent research indicates that FGR increases as burnup increases, specifically under temperature transient conditions, and this release occurs at lower temperatures with a new release mechanism. This behavior has been attributed to microcracking in the fuel and is likely related to microstructure embrittlement with the presence of over pressurized FG bubbles. The NRC RIL outlines the complexity of the phenomenon and a need for a deeper understanding to adequately address FFRD for regulatory application. Therefore, this manuscript intends to summarize the publicly available tFGR data and discuss the observed dependencies (e.g., burnup, heating rate, sample geometry, terminal temperature). An empirical model has been developed and benchmarked against recently published experimental data. However, this empirical model is limited to conditions for which fitting data exist and, therefore, a high-level discussion is included to provide a roadmap for atomistically-informed multiscale modeling in conjunction with experimental data collection to develop a mechanistic tFGR model widely applicable to a broad range of nuclear fuel conditions at high burnup.