Thermo-mechanical assessment of full SiC/SiC composite cladding for LWR applications with sensitivity analysis

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Abstract

SiC/SiC composites are considered among leading candidates for accident tolerant fuel cladding in light water reactors. However, when SiC-based materials are exposed to neutron irradiation, they experience significant changes in dimensions and physical properties. Under a large heat flux application (i.e. fuel cladding), the non-uniform changes in the dimensions and physical properties will lead to build-up of stresses in the structure over the course of time. To ensure reliable and safe operation of such a structure it is important to assess its thermo-mechanical performance under in-reactor conditions of irradiation and elevated temperature. In this work, the foundation for 3D thermo-mechanical analysis of SiC/SiC cladding is put in place and a set of analyses with simplified boundary conditions has been performed. The analyses were carried out with two different codes that were benchmarked against one another and prior results in the literature. A constitutive model is constructed and solved numerically to predict the stress distribution and variation in the cladding under normal operating conditions. The dependence of dimensions and physical properties variation with irradiation and temperature has been incorporated. These robust models may now be modified to take into account the axial and circumferential variation in neutron and heat flux to fully account for 3D effects. The results from the simple analyses show the development of high tensile stresses especially in the circumferential and axial directions at the inner region of the cladding. Based on the results obtained, design guidelines are recommended. For lack of certainty in or tailor-ability for the physical and mechanical properties of SiC/SiC composite material a sensitivity analysis is conducted. The analysis results establish a precedence order of the properties based on the extent to which these properties influence the temperature and the stresses.

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Singh, G., Terrani, K., & Katoh, Y. (2018). Thermo-mechanical assessment of full SiC/SiC composite cladding for LWR applications with sensitivity analysis. Journal of Nuclear Materials, 499, 126–143. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnucmat.2017.11.004

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