Monitoring the Oxidation of Nuclear Fuel Cladding Using Raman Spectroscopy

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In order to observe Zircaloy-4 (Zr-4) cladding oxidation within a spent fuel canister, cladding oxidized in air at 500 °C was investigated by micro-Raman spectroscopy to measure the oxide layer thickness. Systematic Raman scans were performed to study the relationship between typical Raman spectra and various oxide layer thicknesses. The thicknesses of the oxide layers developed for various exposure times were measured by cross-sectional Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). The results of this work reveal that each oxide layer thickness has a corresponding typical Raman spectrum. Detailed analysis suggests that the Raman scattering peaks around wave numbers of 180 cm-1 and 630 cm-1 are the best choices for accurately determining the oxide layer thickness. After Gaussian-Lorentzian deconvolution, these two peaks can be quantitatively represented by four peaks. The intensities of the deconvoluted peaks increase consistently as the oxide layer becomes thicker and sufficiently strong signals are produced, allowing one to distinguish the bare and oxidized cladding samples, as well as samples with different oxide layer thicknesses. Hence, a process that converts sample oxide layer thickness to optical signals can be achieved.