A study of constituent redistribution in U–Zr fuels using quantitative phase-field modeling and sensitivity analysis

Jacob Hirschhorn, Michael R. Tonks, Assel Aitkaliyeva, Cynthia Adkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Constituent redistribution in U–Zr fuels produces radially-distributed phase fields, each with different material properties and behaviors. The location and composition of the phase fields evolve dynamically due to the influence of swelling, fission gas release, and sodium infiltration on the thermal conductivity of the fuel. Gaps in the understanding of these processes limit the ability to model higher-level behaviors such as fuel-cladding chemical interaction and perform design and safety analyses with confidence. In the current work, we developed a quantitative phase-field model of macroscale constituent redistribution in the U–Zr system. Model parameters were optimized, and the model was validated against an independent dataset. No modification of the phase transition temperatures was necessary, but diffusion needed to be enhanced to reproduce the observed behaviors. Sensitivity analysis was then used to investigate gaps in the understanding of the system and identify the most impactful parameters and behaviors. The mobile interface between the γ and β+γ phase fields was found to be particularly influential in forming the Zr bathtub. The β and γ kinetic parameters scale the overall magnitude of constituent redistribution, while parameters associated with swelling and sodium infiltration influence the size, shape, and location of the Zr bathtub. These findings were used to justify specific recommendations for improving U–Zr modeling capability, which will expedite fuel development and qualification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-156
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Nuclear Materials
StatePublished - Sep 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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