Investigation of the oxidation behavior of Zircaloy-4 cladding in a mixture of air and steam
Nemoto, Yoshiyuki ; Ishijima, Yasuhiro ; Kondo, Keietsu ; Fujimura, Yuki; Kaji, Yoshiyuki
Previous studies had shown that in certain conditions, the rate of oxidation of zirconium (Zr) based alloy fuel cladding is higher in air-steam mixtures than in dry air. In severe accidents in the spent fuel pool and in other air ingress accidents in nuclear power plants, the cladding is likely to be oxidized in an air-steam mixture, which makes it crucial to have an in-depth understanding of the nature of oxidation and its kinetics in that environment. Oxidation tests were conducted at 800C on Zircaloy-4 specimens in a mix of (air+steam) with various component ratios. Oxidation kinetics, details of the oxide layer, and hydrogen pick-up in the specimen were studied to investigate the mechanism of oxidation in each of these sets of conditions. Zirconium nitride precipitation in the oxide layer during the initial stages of the pre-breakaway oxidation stage and the widespread porous oxide growth on the cladding surface in the latter post-BA oxidation stage are related to the oxidation mechanism in the air-steam mixture. The differences in the mechanism of oxidation of the cladding in dry air and air-steam mixtures are discussed based on the experimental results.