Microstructural explicit simulation of grain boundary diffusion in depleted UO₂

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ABSTRACT The behavior of the fission products, as they are released from fission events during nuclear reaction, plays an important role in nuclear fuel performance. Fission product release can occur

ABSTRACT The behavior of the fission products, as they are released from fission events during nuclear reaction, plays an important role in nuclear fuel performance. Fission product release can occur through grain boundary (GB) at low burnups; therefore, this study simulates the mass transport of fission gases in a 2-D GB network to look into the effects of GB characteristics on this phenomenon, with emphasis on conditions that can lead to percolation. A finite element model was created based on the microstructure of a depleted UO2 sample characterized by Electron Backscattering Diffraction (EBSD). The GBs were categorized into high (D2), low (D1) and bulk diffusivity (Dbulk) based on their misorientation angles and Coincident Site Lattice (CSL) types. The simulation was run using different diffusivity ratios (D2/Dbulk) ranging from 1 to 10^8. The model was set up in three ways: constant temperature case, temperature gradient effects and window methods that mimic the environments in a Light Water Reactor (LWR). In general, the formation of percolation paths was observed at a ratio higher than 10^4 in the measured GB network, which had a 68% fraction of high diffusivity GBs. The presence of temperature gradient created an uneven concentration distribution and decreased the overall mass flux. Finally, radial temperature and fission gas concentration profiles were obtained for a fuel pellet in operation using an approximate 1-D model. The 100 µm long microstructurally explicit model was used to simulate, to the scale of a real UO2 pellet, the mass transport at different radial positions, with boundary conditions obtained from the profiles. Stronger percolation effects were observed at the intermediate and periphery position of the pellet. The results also showed that highest mass flux happens at the edge of a pellet at steady state to accommodate for the sharp concentration drop.