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Small-angle neutron scattering study of neutron-irradiated and post-irradiation annealed VVER-1000 reactor pressure vessel weld material

Ulbricht, A.; Dykas, J.; Chekhonin, P.; Altstadt, E.; Bergner, F.


Post-irradiation annealing of neutron-irradiated reactor pressure vessel steels is a matter of both technical and scientific interest. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS), while being sensitive to nm-sized irradiation-induced solute-atom clusters, provides macroscopically representative and statistically reliable measures of cluster volume fraction, number density and size. In the present study, SANS was applied to uncover the size distribution of clusters in as-irradiated samples of a VVER-1000 weld and their gradual dissolution as function of the post-irradiation annealing temperature. The same samples were used to measure Vickers hardness. The results are consistent with Mn-Ni-Si-rich clusters of less than 2 nm radius to be the dominant source of both scattering and hardening. Annealing gave rise to small but significant partial recovery at 350 °C and almost complete recovery at 475 °C. The dispersed-barrier hardening model was applied to bridge the gap between the characteristics of nano-features and macro-hardness.

Keywords: reactor pressure vessel; weld; neutron irradiation; annealing; small-angle neutron scattering; Vickers hardness; solute-rich clusters; recovery

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