The ceramographic procedure used to prepare sintered (U,Pu)O2 pellets for qualitative and quantitative examination of the pellet microstructure.
The examinations are performed before and after thermal treatment or chemical etching.
- observation of any cracks, intra- and intergranular pores or inclusions, and
- measurement of the grain size, porosity and plutonium homogeneity distribution.
The mean grain diameter is measured by one of the classic methods: counting (intercept method), comparison with standard grids or typical images, etc. The measurement of individual grain sizes requires uniform development of the microstructure over the entire specimen.
The plutonium cluster and pore distribution and localization are generally analysed by automatic image analysis systems. The plutonium distribution is usually revealed by chemical etching but alpha-autoradiography can also be used. The first technique avoids the tendency for autoradiography to exaggerate the size of plutonium-rich clusters due to the distance the alpha particles travel away from the source.