The thermomechanical behaviour of uranium dioxide nuclear fuel pellets irradiated in a pressurised water reactor has been simulated using a two-dimensional application of bond-based peridynamics implemented in the Abaqus commercial finite element software. Near-surface bond failure, and hence crack initiation, were modelled assuming a probabilistic (variable) failure strain described by a Weibull distribution – with bond failure, and hence crack propagation, in the bulk of the fuel pellets modelled assuming a deterministic (fixed) failure strain. The measured dependency of the number of radial pellet cracks on heat generation rate per unit length – which we show cannot be reproduced by the common assumption in pellet modelling of a deterministic failure strain throughout the pellet volume – was accurately predicted when a size-scaled Weibull distribution with a modulus of 5 was used. However, this low modulus value was associated with the prediction of some cracks initiating away from the pellet surface, which is unphysical. Use of a Weibull modulus of 10 avoided this simulation artefact while still reproducing the experimentally observed dependency with reasonable accuracy.
- Ceramic material
- Crack mechanics and peridynamics
- Thermomechanical process