Assessment of structures and stabilities of defect clusters and surface energies predicted by nine interatomic potentials for UO2

SA Taller and XM Bai, JOURNAL OF NUCLEAR MATERIALS, 443, 84-98 (2013).

DOI: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2013.06.038

The irradiation in nuclear reactors creates many point defects and defect clusters in uranium dioxide (UO2) and their evolution severely degrades the thermal and mechanical properties of the nuclear fuels. Previously many empirical interatomic potentials have been developed for modeling defect production and evolution in UO2. However, the properties of defect clusters and extended defects are usually not fitted into these potentials. In this work nine interatomic potentials for UO2 are examined by using molecular statics and molecular dynamics to assess their applicability in predicting the properties of various types of defect clusters in UO2. The binding energies and structures for these defect clusters have been evaluated for each potential. In addition, the surface energies of voids of different radii and (1 1 0) flat surfaces predicted by these potentials are also evaluated. It is found that both good agreement and significant discrepancies exist for these potentials in predicting these properties. For oxygen interstitial clusters, these potentials predict significantly different defect cluster structures and stabilities; For defect clusters consisting of both uranium and oxygen defects, the prediction is in better agreement; The surface energies predicted by these potentials have significant discrepancies, and some of them are much higher than the experimentally measured values. The results from this work can provide insight on interpreting the outcome of atomistic modeling of defect production using these potentials and may provide guidelines for choosing appropriate potential models to study problems of interest in UO2. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Return to Publications page