This study demonstrates the use of bulge testing to evaluate fuel plates for high-performance nuclear reactors. Uranium-molybdenum alloy substrates were plasma sprayed with zirconium and clad between aluminum sheets by hot isostatic pressing. The coated-and-clad samples were cut into disks, the top cladding was thinned, and a small hole was milled through the bottom cladding. The samples were then placed in a pressure cell and a syringe pump was used to inject distilled water through the hole in the bottom Al sheet. Two cameras measured bulge height while fluid pressure was simultaneously recorded. Test results show that all failures occurred at the plasma-sprayed Zr/U-Mo interface rather than the HIP-bonded Zr/Al interface. It is also shown that the use of transferred arc (TA) cleaning prior to spraying improves both failure pressure and initiation fracture toughness, especially under high ac current. TA cleaning facilitates the formation of strong diffusion bonds by removing oxide from the substrate and increasing interface temperature.

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