Microstructural and Non-destructive Analysis

Introduction

The Microstructural and Non-Destructive Analyses (MNA) expert group builds up, supports, manages and maintains the infrastructure required for high-quality non-destructive and microstructural research on highly active and actinide-bearing materials, including full size irradiated fuel rods in response to the requirements of external clients, the SCK•CEN materials scientists (structural materials and fuel materials) and the international scientific community.

Main activities

The non-destructive analyses are mainly focused on fuel analyses

  • Metrology (diameter (rods) or thickness (plates) and length)
  • Fuel rod or plate cladding oxide thickness
  • Integrity analyses (eg. cladding rupture)
  • X-ray radiography
  • Gamma spectrometry (burnup, power and fission gas release quantification)
  • Puncture for free volume measurements and fission gas analysis (mass spectrometry)

Microstructural analyses

  • Optical microscopy
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) with ED spectrometry
  • Electron Probe MicroAnalysis (EPMA) with WD spectrometry
  • X-ray Diffraction (XRD)
  • X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) with Auger spectroscopy option
  • Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM)

All analyses can be performed on radioactive and radiotoxic materials, but not all instruments feature the same levels of radiological protection, so the dose limits and radiotoxicity classes allowed differ for each instrument. Some are fully shielded in hot cell environment and operate on full cross-sections of irradiated nuclear fuels.

Applications

The non-destructive analyses are mainly performed on irradiated fuel rods and plates, both experimental fuels and commercial fuels, up to full size 4 m long fuel rods from commercial power plants.  The non-destructive team is active in various fields, including QA, failure analysis, research and development, fuel qualification and licencing.

Using the microstructural techniques, fuel materials as well as various structural materials are analysed. This means applications are related to fracture mechanics (e.g. fracture surface analyses), corrosion science (e.g. oxide layer analyses), oxide and metal fuel behaviour (e.g. fuel microchemical analyses), cladding behaviour (eg. hydriding), etc.  The microstructure team supports a wide variety of users from different expert groups to perform and interpret their analyses.

Projects

The Microstructural and Non-Destructive Analyses (MNA) expert group is a support group, so we are included in all projects in which our services are required.

Services & Consultancy

  • Non-destructive analyses of irradiated nuclear fuels
  • Microstructural analyses (OM, SEM, TEM, EPMA, XPS, XRD)

Head of Expert GroupSven Van den Berghe