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High frequency acoustic microscopy for the determination of porosity and Young’s modulus in high burnup uranium dioxide nuclear fuel

During irradiation UO2 nuclear fuel experiences the development of a non-uniform distribution of porosity which contributes to establish varying mechanical properties along the radius of the pellet. Radial variations of the porosity and of elastic properties in high burnup UO2 pellet can be investigated via high frequency acoustic microscopy. Ultrasound waves are generated by a piezoeletric transducer and focused on the sample, after having travelled through a coupling liquid. The elastic properties of the material are related to the velocity of the generated Rayleigh surface wave (VR). A 67 MWd/kgU UO2 pellet was characterized using the acoustic microscope installed in the hot cells of the Institute of Transuranium Elements: 90 MHz frequency was applied, methanol was used as coupling liquid and VR was measured at different radial positions. By comparing the porosity values obtained via acoustic microscopy with those determined using ceramographic image analysis a good agreement was found, especially in the areas close to the centre. In addition Young's modulus was calculated and its radial profile was correlated to the corresponding burnup profile.