Stability of materials under extreme conditions is an important issue for safety of nuclear reactors. Presently, silicon carbide (SiC) is being studied as a cladding material candidate for fuel rods in boiling-water and pressurized water-cooled reactors (BWRs and PWRs) that would substitute or modify traditional zircaloy materials. The rate of corrosion of the SiC ceramics in hot vapor environment (up to 2200 C) simulating emergency conditions of light water reactor (LWR) depends on many environmental factors such as pressure, temperature, viscosity, and surface quality. Using the paralinear oxidation theory developed for ceramics in the combustion reactor environment, we estimated the corrosion rate of SiC ceramics under the conditions representing a significant power excursion in a LWR. It was established that a significant time - at least 100 h - is required for a typical SiC braiding to significantly degrade even in the most aggressive vapor environment (with temperatures up to 2200 C) which is possible in a LWR at emergency condition. This provides evidence in favor of using the SiC coatings/braidings for additional protection of nuclear reactor rods against off-normal material degradation during power excursions or LOCA incidents. Additionally, we discuss possibilities of using other silica based ceramics in order to find materials with even higher corrosion resistance than SiC. In particular, we found that zircon (ZrSiO 4) is also a very promising material for nuclear applications. Thermodynamic and first-principles atomic-scale calculations provide evidence of zircon thermodynamic stability in aggressive environments at least up to 1535 C.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nuclear and High Energy Physics
- Materials Science(all)
- Nuclear Energy and Engineering