Bearing Capacity of Elements’ HGA

7.1 Fracture Criteria of Thermally Loaded Bodies

Temperature stresses inevitably appearing during the NRE operation are one of the main factors that can cause the destruction of ceramic units of HRAs [1]. In some cases, temperature stresses determine the construction features and output parameters of a device being developed and the possibility of using one material or another. Therefore, to estimate the strength, it is necessary to determine the level of these stresses and the degree of their danger for individual elements and the construction as a whole.

As a rule, the strength is calculated by using admissible normal or tangential stresses that are safe for the product strength or the limit number of loading cycles. For a newly created class of machines or apparatuses, it is necessary to determine the properties of the collapse of materials from which their bearing elements are made and to determine certain criteria for the strength and its limiting values. The strength of a metal HRA housing is estimated by special methods for calculating the strength and the radial and longitudinal stability of cylindrical shells known in rocket building. The bearing capacity of ceramic fuel elements with a cross-section of a complicated shape was estimated by using the strength criteria for bodies operating in the inhomogeneous field of thermal stresses developed at the institute Luch.

The results of studies initiated at the institute as early as 1973 showed that the use of methods of thermal action in different combinations and varying the shape and size of a body changed the thermal strength and the type of body collapse [3]. Based on the concepts of force fracture mechanics, a new criterion factor N was introduced [2], which took the stress distribution into account and determined conditions of the total or partial fracture of bodies upon changing this stressed state. The values of the parameter N for different types of thermal loading were calculated numerically.

Upon heating the side surface of a body made of an elastic brittle material, a crack appearing in the central tensile region causes the complete fragmentation of the body when the critical stress intensity K1c and values N > Ncr are reached (Fig. 7.1a). When the side surface of a heated body is cooled (under conditions similar to the

A. Lanin, Nuclear Rocket Engine Reactor, Springer Series in Materials Science 170, 89

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-32430-7_7, © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Fig. 7.1 Change in the destruction of ZrC samples from complete fragmentation upon heating the body surface (a) to partial destruction caused by surface cracks appearing upon cooling (b) due to a change in the stressed state of the body [2]. (Three stress components for a cylindrical sample and the absence of the axial component Oz in a thin disc)

operation conditions of HREs according to the scheme presented in Fig.7.1b) and the inhomogeneity parameter is N < Ncr, the nonequilibrium propagation of a crack started in the tensile region at the critical value K1c changes to its equilibrium increase. The total fragmentation of the body becomes possible when stresses (after their substantial redistribution) are 8-10 times higher than the start stress of the crack [2]. In this case, the penetration of the crack into the body is 0.55R on average, which agrees with calculations.

The tests of heated HREs of different compositions by the method of nonstationary cooling in water showed that they were partially damaged due to the appearance of surface cracks at stresses exceeding the tensile stress at corresponding to the heat flow qs и 2.5MW m-2 by only 15-20 % [3]. The bearing capacity of the HRE estimated from decay in the strength decreases almost three times after the appearance of surface cracks and remains virtually unchanged after repeated cyclic loadings. We note that the number of cracks per unit surface increases when qs increases, while their penetration depth in the body and hence the bending strength do not change (Fig. 7.2). Tests of HREs by passing an electric current through them and blowing off their surface by a gas flow at surface temperatures (1,500-1,900 K) higher than upon cooling in water confirm that ZrC+UC HREs were damaged for qs = 2.5-3.0MWm-2 (Fig. 7.3). Doping a carbide matrix with carbon inclusions almost doubles the damage threshold (up to qs 5MWm-2). The complete fragmentation

of HREs made of ZrC + UC and ZrC + NbC + UC occurs at mean values qs = 10 — 12MWm-2.

The estimation of vibration strength of HRA is made at room temperature without radiation. More than 15th overloading during 50h in a frequency kilohertz range, and singular blows at the case in three directions did not cause any change of HRA state [4].

The working capacity of fuel elements (FE) and HGA in reactor conditions, mod­eling modes of reactors’ operation of the nuclear propulsion reactor (NPR), and nuclear propulsion energy reactor (NPER) on a propulsion mode (PM) with two various power levels implemented in reactors IVG.1, IR-100 and on an energy mode (EM) in rector RA [6, 7] (Fig. 7.3).

NP tests were carried out in two HGA modifications cooled by hydrogen techno­logical canals 300 (TC-300) and experimental technological canals (ETC) of reactor IVG-1, FE tests implemented in suppressed and filled with helium canals TC-100 of the reactor IR-100 and in filled helium ampoules of reactor RA. In total, 152 techno­logical canals of various type have been tested on PM. Reactor tests of the irradiated FE of various heating sections (HS) of HGA and FE of the resource ampoules were examined. In total, 110 various types of canals after reactor tests were investigated.

Fuel elements of nuclear rocket engine (NRE) were tested in IVG-1 research reactor in the modes that simulate operating conditions of NRE reactor. These fuel elements were used in fuel assemblies (FA), containing several heating sections (HS) 100 mm long inserted into the flowing gas-cooled technological channels of NRE reactor core.

During the working out of NRE fuel elements in IVG-1 reactor, 30 technological channels with 8- or 6-cell fuel assemblies were installed. Each HS in the 8-cell assemblies contains 379 fuel elements, and each HS in the 6-cell assemblies—151 fuel elements (beam diameters of fuel elements in the 8-cell and 6-cell assemblies were respectively 47.0 and 29.7 mm). In the 8-cell assemblies the first five HS contain fuel elements of (Zr, U)C and the last three are fuel elements of (Zr, Nb, U)C; in 6-cell assemblies, the first four HS contain fuel elements of (Zr, U)C+C, and the last two are fuel element of (Zr, Nb, U)C.

During the ground test of NRE fuel elements each IVG-1 reactor start-up (of about 5-6 min duration) corresponded to one of the reactor activation of space NRE. In the trial tests of the IVG-1 reactor (first core) only three start-ups were performed—power start-up (PS) and two working start-ups (WS). And in the life cycle tests of the second core the regulated number of the start-ups was made (that is, 1 PS and 11 WS). At that the modes of WS in the life cycle tests corresponded well to operating conditions of the reactor activations of space NRE. In particular, the hydrogen temperature at FA outlet reached 3,100K. Hydrogen pressure at the inlet and outlet of FA was ~10 and ~5 MPa, respectively, the maximum temperature drop along the radial cross­section of fuel element reached 250 K.

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