During its operating life in the core of a nuclear reactor nuclear fuel is subjected to significant restructuring processes determined by neutron irradiation directly through nuclear reactions and indirectly through the thermo-mechanical conditions established as a consequence of such reactions. In today's light water reactors, starting after ~4 years of operation the cylindrical UO2 fuel pellet undergoes a transformation that affects its outermost radial region. The discovery of a newly forming structure necessitated the answering of important questions concerning the safety of extended fuel operation and still today poses the fascinating scientific challenge of fully understanding the microstructural mechanisms responsible for its formation.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(10)70221-2