Part of the Engineering Materials book series (ENG.MAT.)


Zirconium alloys are used in nuclear reactors because of their combination of high strength, high corrosion resistance, and low neutron absorption cross-section. Their most demanding applications in nuclear reactors are as fuel cladding and in CANDU, RBMK, and other Pressurized Heavy Water (PHW) reactors as pressure tubes containing the fuel bundles. It is important for the safe and economic operation of these reactors that these components maintain their integrity throughout their design life. However, during their residence in the reactor these components are subject to aging mechanisms resulting from thermal- and pressure-driven changes, fast neutron bombardment, and corrosion at the water/metal interface, the latter resulting in a small fraction of the released hydrogen produced during the corrosion reaction being absorbed in the zirconium alloy. When the hydrogen concentration in the material exceeds the Zr–H solvus composition, zirconium hydrides are formed. These hydrides, which are less ductile than the surrounding metal matrix, can have deleterious effects on the mechanical properties of these components when present at sufficiently high volume fraction. Their deleterious effects are exacerbated by increases in yield strength and decreases in fracture toughness of the zirconium material. These changes are produced as a consequence of the production of dislocation loops and other microstructural changes during fast neutron bombardment in the reactor core.


Zirconium Alloy Pressure Tube Delay Hydride Crack Fuel Cladding Zirconium Hydride 
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© Springer-Verlag London 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MPP ConsultingOakvilleCanada

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