Experimental approach and modelling of the mechanical behaviour of graphite fuel elements subjected to compression pulses
Laboratory of Physics and Mechanics of Materials, Université
Paul Verlaine - Metz,
Ile du Saulcy, 57045
Metz Cedex 1,
a e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Among the activities led by the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) relative to the future nuclear systems, the improvement of recycling of fuel elements and their components is a major issue. One of the studied systems by the GIF is the graphite-moderated high-temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR). The fuel elements are composed of fuel roads half-inch in diameter named compacts. The compacts contain spherical particles made of actinide kernels about 500 m in diameter coated with three layers of carbon and silicon carbide, each about 50 m thick, dispersed in a graphite matrix. Recycling of compacts requires first a separation of triso-particles from the graphite matrix and secondly, the separation of the triso-coating from the kernels. This aim may be achieved by using pulsed currents: the compacts are placed within a cell filled by water and exposed to high voltage between 200 – 500 kV and discharge currents from 10 to 20 kA during short laps of time (about 2 µs) [1-2]. This repeated treatment leads to a progressive fragmentation of the graphite matrix and a disassembly of the compacts. In order to improve understanding of the fragmentation properties of compacts a series of quasi-static and dynamic experiments have been conducted with similar cylindrical samples containing 10% (volume fraction) of SiC particles coated in a graphite matrix.
First, quasi-static compression tests have been performed to identify the mechanical behaviour of the material at low strain-rates (Fig.1). The experiments reveal a complex elasto-visco-plastic behaviour before a brittle failure. The mechanical response is characterised by a low yield stress (about 1 MPa), a strong strain-hardening in the loading phase and marked hysteresis-loops during unloading-reloading stages. Brittle failure is observed for axial stress about 13 MPa. In parallel, a series of flexural tests have been performed with the aim to characterise the quasi-static tensile strength of the particulate-graphite and the corresponding standard deviation. The behaviour being non linear before failure, a numerical simulation has been conducted to build the relation between the applied load and the maximum tensile stress. A statistical approach applied to experimental data allows deducing the mean tensile strength (about 2.5 MPa) and the scatter of failure stresses (Weibull modulus m = 12).
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2010