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Reactor Pressure Vessel Task of Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program: Assessment of High Value Surveillance Materials

The reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in a light-water reactor (LWR) represents the first line of defense against a release of radiation in case of an accident. Thus, regulations that govern the operation of commercial nuclear power plants require conservative margins of fracture toughness, both during normal operation and under accident scenarios. In the unirradiated condition, the RPV has sufficient fracture toughness such that failure is implausible under any postulated condition, including pressurized thermal shock (PTS) in pressurized water reactors (PWR). In the irradiated condition, however, the fracture toughness of the RPV may be severely degraded, with the degree of toughness loss dependent on the radiation sensitivity of the materials. As stated in previous progress reports, the available embrittlement predictive models, e.g. [1], and our present understanding of radiation damage are not fully quantitative, and do not treat all potentially significant variables and issues, particularly considering extension of operation to 80y.

The major issues regarding irradiation effects are discussed in [2, 3] and have also been discussed in previous progress and milestone reports. As noted previously, of the many significant issues discussed, the issue considered to have the most impact on the current regulatory process is that associated with effects of neutron irradiation on RPV steels at high fluence, for long irradiation times, and as affected by neutron flux. It is clear that embrittlement of RPV steels is a critical issue that may limit LWR plant life extension. The primary objective of the LWRSP RPV task is to develop robust predictions of transition temperature shifts (TTS) at high fluence (φt) to at least 1020 n/cm2 (>1 MeV) pertinent to plant operation of some pressurized water reactors (PWR) for 80 full power years. New and existing databases will be combined to support developing physically based models of TTS for high fluence-low flux (φ < 10 11n/cm2-s) conditions, beyond the existing surveillance database, to neutron fluences of at least 1×1020 n/cm2 (>1 MeV).

This report provides the status for the Milestone L-11OR040202 Level M2, #M2L11OR04020205, “Complete assessment of other high value surveillance materials (including Palisades capsule).” This milestone is associated with procurement of materials from commercial power reactor surveillance programs for eventual inclusion in research reactor irradiation experiments, such as the UCSB ATR-2 experiment, and/or microstructural examination.