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The effect of radiation damage by fission fragments on the structural stability and dissolution of the UO2 fuel matrix



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The aim of this work was to study the separate effect of fission fragment damage on the structural integrity and matrix dissolution of uranium dioxide in water. Radiation damage similar to fission damage was created by irradiating bulk undoped and doped ‘SIMFUEL’ disks of UO2, undoped bulk CeO2 and thin films of UO2 and CeO2 with high energy Xe and U ions. The UO2 thin films, with thicknesses in the range of 90 – 150 nm, were deposited onto (001), (110) and (111) orientations of single crystal LSAT (Al10La3O51Sr14Ta7) and YSZ (Yttria-Stabilised Zirconia) substrates. The CeO2 thin films were deposited onto single crystal silicon (001) substrates. Part of the bulk UO2 and CeO2 samples, the thin films of UO2 on the LSAT substrates and the thin films of CeO2 were irradiated with 92 MeV 129Xe23+ ions to a fluence of 4.8 × 1015 ions/cm2 to simulate the damage produced by fission fragments in uranium dioxide nuclear fuel. Part of the bulk UO2 and CeO2 samples and the thin films of UO2 on the YSZ substrates were irradiated with 110 MeV 238U31+ ions to a fluence of 5 × 1010, 5 × 1011 and 5 × 1012 ions/cm2 to study the accumulation of the damage induced. The irradiated and unirradiated samples were studied using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), focused ion beam (FIB), atomic force microscopy (AFM), energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) spectroscopy, electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), X-ray diffraction (XRD), electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD), secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) techniques to characterise the as-produced samples and assess the effects of the ion irradiations. Dissolution experiments were conducted to assess the effect of the Xe ion irradiation on the dissolution of the thin film UO2 samples on the LSAT substrates and the bulk and thin film CeO2 samples. The solutions obtained from the leaching of the irradiated and unirradiated samples were analysed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). XRD studies of the bulk UO2 samples showed that the ion irradiations resulted in an increased lattice parameter, microstrain and decreased crystallite size, as expected. The irradiated UO2 thin films on the LSAT substrates underwent significant microstructural and crystallographic rearrangements. It was shown that by irradiating thin films of UO2 with high energy, high fluence ions, it is possible to produce a structure that is similar to a thin slice through the high burn-up structure. It is expected that the ion irradiation induced chemical mixing of the UO2 films with the substrate elements (La, Sr, Al, Ta). As a result, a material similar to a doped SIMFUEL with induced radiation damage was produced.




Farnan, Ian


UO2, radiation damage, ion irradiation, thin film, CeO2, XRD, XPS, ICP-MS, dissolution, secondary phase, SEM, AFM, dissolution-precipitation, spent nuclear fuel, geological disposal, anoxic dissolution, SIMFUEL, ion-beam-induced mixing, microstructure, single crystal, EBSD, Nano-structure, Kernel average misorientation, GISAXS, GIXRD, EPMA, SIMS, FIB-SEM, HS-AFM, EDX, GANIL, fission fragment, structural stability, nuclear fuel


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
UK EPSRC (grant EP/I036400/1) and Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (formerly the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, contract NPO004411A-EPS02)