Thermal embrittlement of cast austenitic stainless steels (CASS) occurs at reactor operating temperatures during the reactor design lifetime of 40 years leading to a reduction in their toughness and an increase in strength. Additionally most US nuclear plants have been given plant life extensions for 60-year operation, and consideration of further extension to 80 years is underway. As the fracture toughness reduces due to thermal embrittlement, some aged CASS materials have the potential to have exceedingly low toughness. CASS can also show high toughness variability due to the variability of its microstructure. Recently an ASME Section XI Code Case N-838 has been proposed to evaluate the flaw tolerance based on probabilistic fracture mechanics (PFM). An assessment of mechanical-property degradation is an input to perform the flaw evaluation procedure in CASS components. There are at least four different models for predicting the change in J-R curves in CASS due to thermal aging. One model is proprietary and the other three are the Argonne/NUREG-CR/4513R1, the French/EDF and a Japanese model.
In this work, two of the thermal aging models were reviewed, reproduced and validated against their example cases for each individual model. Both models were then utilized to assess the fully aged conditions for cases that covers a large spectrum of CASS J R curves with high COV (coefficient of variance). Finally, J-R curves distributions using both Argonne and French models were established by examining the actual chemical compositions of CASS materials found in some US PWR plants. The J-R curves distributions include 21 pipes/fittings in primary pipe loop as well as data from an EPRI report. The calculated toughness variability in a single LBB plant is compared using the Argonne and French models. Additionally the relationship of the “C” and “m” parameters used in the power-law J-R curve equations (J = C×Δam) was explored to determine the proper way to statistically vary the J-R curve in probabilistic analyses.