Microstructural Degradation of UN and UN-UO2 Composites in Hydrothermal Oxidation Conditions

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The degradation behavior in high pressure water of UN and UN + (5–10 w%) UO2 monolithic pellets fabricated from UN synthesized via a hydride-dehydride-nitride thermal process was investigated. Sintered pellets (>90% theoretical density) were subjected to hydrothermal oxidation in a water-filled static autoclave at temperatures ranging from 250 to 350°C and pressures to 16.5 MPa. Phase characterization and microstructural and chemical analysis was performed on the resulting corrosion products using X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coupled with energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). The results of this screening study show that grain boundary attack and spallation is the primary degradation mechanism in hydrothermal oxidation conditions. The results also suggest the corrosion rate is higher in UN and UN-UO2 with higher starting oxygen content.