Using laser remote heating to simulate extreme thermal heat loads on nuclear fuels
EPJ Web of Conferences
Up to now, predicting accurately the Fission Gas Release (FGR) from high burn up UO2 and/or MOX (Mixed Oxide) fuels at off-normal conditions, such as power transient, reactivity-initiated accident (RIA) and loss-of-coolant accident (LOCA), is still a significant and very challenging task. For this purpose, different R&D programs have been carried out in France, as well as in other countries. This has been done with a specific emphasis on mechanisms which promote the FGR under accidental
... accidental conditions. These studies can be performed thanks to dedicated integral experiments conducted in-pile (i.e. in Materials Testing Reactor) with the corresponding cost and constraints, or at the laboratory scale with annealing tests which allow to be representative of specific parameters (thermal history for instance). During these annealing tests under well-known conditions (temperature, atmosphere), both the absolute level and the time dependence of the released gases should be monitored, together with the corresponding fuel micro-structural changes, since experimental knowledge of fission gas release alone is not efficient enough. This approach requires more and more accurate on-line measurements. This corresponds to the driving force of the present work. In this contribution, we will present our progress in developing an experimental platform that can submit nuclear fuel and cladding samples to annealing tests involving very high temperatures (up to 2500°C) and very fast temperature ramp (up to thousands of °C/s) with controlled thermal gradients and temporal dynamics. This new platform implements innovative instrumentation, such as optical diagnostics to measure fuel fragmentation kinetics and infrared pyrometry for temperature monitoring. This experiment is based on a high-power laser (1.5kW) coupled to an experimental chamber with controlled atmosphere (Ar, N2, or vacuum) and specific optical components. Based on the spatial beam profile and temporal power function of the laser, it is possible which such a system to produce complex spatio-temporal temperature gradients, relevant for addressing different research needs. It provides access to extreme conditions that are very difficult to reach with other means. Particularly, one of main objectives of this work is to investigate conditions of Reactivity Initiated Accident (RIA). The first experiments performed on inactive materials, non-irradiated uranium dioxide, is presented in order to highlight the capabilities of this technique.