Skip to main content

Failure analysis of nuclear transient-tested UN tristructural isotropic fuel particles in a 3D printed SiC matrix

by Daniel P Schappel, Kory D Linton, Grant W Helmreich, Tamara J Keever, Christian M Petrie
Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Nuclear Materials
Publication Date
Page Numbers
154691 to 17

Fully ceramic microencapsulated fuel elements containing UN tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel particles within a 3D printed SiC matrix were subjected to transient testing with varying energy depositions. Detailed post-irradiation examinations were performed, including leaching in hot HNO3 and post-leaching X-ray computed tomography, to quantify the percentage of failed TRISO particles and crack propagation within the particles and surrounding fuel matrix. In parallel, detailed finite element analyses were performed for comparison with experimental findings and to better evaluate transient failure modes. The lowest transient energy deposition—which still exceeded bounding values for high-temperature gas-cooled reactor applications—resulted in no detectable TRISO particle failures or matrix cracking, which was consistent with the simulations. Simulations of the higher-energy transients for which significant TRISO particle failure was expected were generally able to reproduce the transient temperatures and matrix cracking. Thus, the TRISO particle failures were explained based on the effects of local SiC matrix thickness and porosity. Results generally confirmed the high strength of the additively manufactured SiC matrix but also affirmed the need for a modified UN TRISO architecture to prevent SiC matrix cracks from propagating through TRISO layers. This unique failure mode has not historically been considered for TRISO fuels contained in weaker graphite matrices.