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Modeling intra-granular fission gas bubble evolution and coarsening in uranium dioxide during in-pile transients

Abstract: 

The description of intra-granular fission gas behavior during irradiation is a fundamental part of models used for the calculation of fission gas release and gaseous swelling in nuclear fuel performance codes. The relevant phenomena include diffusion of gas atoms towards the grain boundaries coupled to the evolution of intra-granular bubbles. While intra-granular bubbles during normal operating conditions are limited to sizes of a few nanometers, experimental evidence exists for the appearance of a second population of bubbles during transients, characterized by coarsening to sizes of tens to hundreds of nanometers and that can significantly contribute to gaseous fuel swelling. In this work, we present a model of intra-granular fission gas behavior in uranium dioxide fuel that includes both nanometric fission gas bubble evolution and bubble coarsening during transients. While retaining a physical basis, the developed model is relatively simple and is intended for application in engineering fuel performance codes. We assess the model through comparisons to a substantial number of experimental data from SEM observations of intra-granular bubbles in power ramp tested uranium dioxide samples. The results demonstrate that the model reproduces the coarsening of a fraction of the intra-granular bubbles and correspondingly, predicts gaseous swelling during power ramps with a significantly higher accuracy than is allowed by traditional models limited to the evolution of nanometric intra-granular bubbles.