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Fracture mechanics investigation of reactor pressure vessel steels by means of sub-sized specimens (KLEINPROBEN)

Das, A.; Altstadt, E.; Chekhonin, P.; Houska, M.


The embrittlement of reactor pressure vessel (RPV) steels due to neutron irradiation restricts the operating lifetime of nuclear reactors. The reference temperature 𝑇0, obtained from fracture mechanics testing using the Master Curve concept, is a good indicator of the irradiation resistance of a material. The measurement of the shift in 𝑇0 after neutron irradiation, which accompanies the embrittlement of the material, using the Master Curve concept, enables the
assessment of the reactor materials. In the context of worldwide life time extensions of nuclear power plants, the limited availability of neutron irradiated materials (surveillance materials) is a challenge. Testing of miniaturized 0.16T C(T) specimens manufactured from already tested standard Charpy-sized specimens helps to solve the material shortage problem. In this work, four different reactor pressure vessel steels with different compositions were
investigated in the unirradiated and in the neutron-irradiated condition. A total number of 189 mini-C(T) samples were fabricated and tested. An important component of this study is the transferability of fracture mechanics data from mini-C(T) to standard Charpy-sized specimen. Our results demonstrate good agreement of the reference temperatures from the mini-C(T) specimens with those from standard Charpy-sized specimens. RPV steels containing higher Cu and P contents exhibit a higher increase in 𝑇0 after irradiation. The fracture surfaces were investigated using SEM in order to record the location of the fracture initiators. The fracture modes were also determined. A large number of test results formed the basis for a censoring probability function, which was
used to optimally select the testing temperature in Master Curve testing. The effect of the slow stable crack growth censoring criteria from ASTM E1921 on the determination of 𝑇0 was analysed and found to have a minor effect. Our results demonstrate the validity of mini-C(T) specimen testing and confirm the role of the impurity elements Cu and P in neutron embrittlement. We anticipate further research linking microstructure to the fracture properties of materials before and after neutron irradiation and the optimization of Master Curve testing using the results from our statistical analysis.

Keywords: reactor pressure vessel steel; neutron embrittlement; Master Curve testing; mini-CT specimens; small specimen test technology

  • Open Access Logo Wissenschaftlich-Technische Berichte / Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf; HZDR-125 2023
    ISSN: 2191-8708, eISSN: 2191-8716
    ISSN: 2191-8708



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